By Staci Wolfson
Designers Rachel Brand and Katie Windmueller have found the key to success. Literally.
Despite a struggling economy, the pair has founded Charms City Company, a unique jewelry line that has watched sales skyrocket in just over two years. Affordable and stylish, the bracelets, necklaces and other accessories are made from salvaged finds like antique skeleton keys, game tiles and pocket watches.
It’s not just recycled; it’s “upcycled,” as Brand says. Undeniably hip and, well, charming, the vintage style jewelry manages to straddle the line between an urban, steampunk edginess and a soft, romantic feel.
“We try to keep our stuff fresh,” said Brand. “One of the first things we started with are salvaged key necklaces, and I can say that’s probably still our favorite thing. We love collecting old skeleton keys and making those necklaces, but we do more than just that. We’ve been constantly adding other salvaged materials into our necklaces. We do a lot of bottle opener necklaces and other knickknacks that we find. … It’s fun to constantly look for new things, new materials.”
Brand and Windmueller first bonded over their mutual loves of crafting and collecting. Brand said the two regularly went antiquing and visited flea markets. Their eye for hidden treasure paid off when they decided to create jewelry to sell at a weekend fall festival in Brand’s hometown of Darlington.
“We made enough jewelry to do the apple festival, just kind of for fun, not really expecting anything fantastic out of it,” Brand said. “We sold almost everything we made at the show, so we figured, ‘Oh that was fun,’ and then we immediately applied for a couple of other festivals for the rest of the year and continued to do really well. So we opened an Etsy shop and started pursuing boutiques and stuff over the winter and kind of went from there.”
Although Brand and Windmueller were surprised by the rapid success, shops and boutiques noticed their talent right away. In only two years, Charms City Company wares are currently sold in 12 stores from Brooklyn to Des Moines. Baltimore’s Double Dutch Boutique (Hampden) and Emporium Collagia (Fells Point) both carry Charms City.
“I think we picked up seven [shops] in like two months’ time, or something crazy like that,” Brand said. “We were just like producing jewelry like crazy then. We actually make stuff while we’re at shows which is really helpful, but I think just getting into a handful of shops just right away it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s happening so quickly,’ and we weren’t prepared for all this.”
But Baltimore was prepared for them, gobbling up the inventory as quickly as possible.
“It’s been an awesome home,” Brand said. “We do shows mostly in the Baltimore area and have been extremely successful. It’s been so much fun. And I can’t believe how many shows there are just in the Baltimore area. We don’t even have to go that far to do shows every weekend. I love that about Baltimore.”