Q&A: West Roxbury's Lechner Owns Pura Vida in Charlestown
West Roxbury's Daren Lechner talks with Patch about his new home furnishings showroom in Charlestown.
Located in Charlestown's old Crosby Steam Gauge & Valve Co. building on Roland Street, which dates back to 1888, the new home furnishings store Pura Vida is itself a reclaiming of something old, made new again.
Shop owner Daren Lechner, of West Roxbury, has created an interesting showroom on the building’s third floor—a series of vignettes designed to draw in the eye, appeal to the senses and give the shopper a truly original experience.
The shop name, “Pura Vida,” is a Costa Rican phrase that means “pure life," and Lechner tries to carry that natural feel throughout his business.
Lechner talked with Patch about how he chooses what to sell in his shop, where he gets it, and the unique experience of shopping at Pura Vida.
Why did you decide to open a business in Charlestown? I’ve always wanted to open my own store. I’ve been in retail all my life, worked every gambit of retail—management, being a buyer, setting up showrooms throughout the country for wholesalers—and this opportunity came up. I always said if I open my own business I want it to be in this kind of industrial setting. I want a big open space where I can build these vignettes and walls and create little shops in here.
How do you choose what to sell at Pura Vida? My whole goal of this was to try to do repurposed, reclaimed, recycled products and local artisans and entrepreneurs. So you’ll see a lot of photography—those are done by friends of mine. I have another guy who does reclaimed wood tables using pieces of old buildings.
Another thing I try to do is American made, as much as I can. This guy in Georgia buys all the wine barrels from California and ships them over to Georgia and repurposes them into tables and stools. They all have different stamps from the vineyards on the barrel tops.
Everything in here is handpicked by me, so this is all my style.
Where do you find items you want to sell here? When I know somebody who does photography, I’ll ask if they know anybody who does sculptures. It’s kind of a networking thing. Other items, I’ll find through vendors, from going to market. I’m always trying to look for something new and different that isn’t made in China. If you get a local person, it isn’t going to be a mass-produced item. A friend of mine [for example], takes vintage bottles that are dug up at Niagara Falls and he takes crystals from old chandeliers or sea life and he solders them together to make these unique pieces of table art.
Do you sell items online, or just in the shop? I want people to come shopping again. I believe people still like to go shopping. And it needs to be rejuvenating. On my website, I came up with the new tagline: 'See. Hear. Smell. Touch. With taste.' Being a destination store, I knew it had to be unique; you’ve got to make it special. Nobody’s going to drive over here if it’s just a bunch of junk you can see anywhere.
Do you have a favorite piece in the store? One of my favorites is [a piece of wall sculpture] called “Climbing Man.” I wanted some really cool pieces, whether they sell or not. People walk in and say, ‘Every time I turn a corner, I see something different.' I want to look for the exciting, the cool, the different. I don’t want to be an everyday, run-of-the-mill home décor store. I want to provide affordable design for everybody, but not the stuff that’s on every shelf of every store.