Charming Charlie’s first NYC store took six months to build and more than a year and a half to plan, anathema to a chain that has been opening a new location nearly every week the last few years. Founder, CEO, and namesake Charlie Chanaratsopon tells Forbes the delay is acceptable in this case. In fact, selling merchandise isn’t the store’s primary objective.
“We don’t open stores to lose money, so we think we can be profitable here. But it’s bigger than that. One of our objectives is building a brand larger than a business, and New York is the epicenter of that,” Chanaratsopon says.
The 37-year-old Chanaratsopon started the company in 2004 as a side business to fill his Houston shopping mall development projects. But the business outgrew his real estate plans, as cheap prices on watches, necklaces, scarves, and handbags–displayed throughout the store by color rather than type–powered the chain to nearly $500 million in sales last year.
Success has set the bar higher. Chanaratsopon now name checks global giants like Zara as his inspiration. Charming Charlie is currently negotiating with partners to take its stores to the Middle East and Asia, and New York, with its legion of foreign tourists, is the way point along that international path.
Meanwhile, the retail chain has had to reboot its ecommerce efforts after a disastrous launch 2 years ago (the site, a money loser, was taken down for months in 2013 before coming back online). Charming Charlie’s website reached 2 million monthly views recently, and Chanaratsopon insists its on the right track.
“Is it optimal yet? No. But is the top line growing fast? Yes. Ecommerce isn’t just important from a billboard perspective, but also from a revenue perspective,” he says.
The next milestone, according to Chanaratsopon, is an initial public offering. He last took on a preferred equity partner in December of 2013, and despite the frothy private market, Charlie says the company’s next round of funding will likely be from Wall Street. First, he has to iron out the inconsistencies of his young operation.
“We need to make sure all parts of the business are humming, that there’s more predictability for public market investors,” says Chanaratsopon. “It’s important to deliver results that are controllable.”
Of course, it might be easier to smooth out the business’ financials if Charming Charlie slowed its pace of growth. But that’s off the table. With New York checked off and another brand-boosting “flagship” in Los Vegas, South Beach is next in line. And that’s on top of 33 regular Charming Charlie stores scheduled to open in the second half of 2015.