Charley Hafen has set up four chairs and two small tables on his back patio. A bottle of rye whiskey and a glass tumbler sit on one table. On the other sits another tumbler and a silver tray. On the silver tray are two handmade leather boxes (each filled with an assortment of Dunhill and Nat Sherman cigarettes), a Rolex Oyster Perpetual, a tarnished Japanese lighter, and two cigarette holders that Charley made himself using beads from the medieval epoch and various metals. Charley, it is plain to see, is a man who attends to detail and appreciates quality.
This is not surprising, given that Charley has been handcrafting jewelry for over 30 years. Even Charley’s spectacles are from the WWII era, which his father used to wear. He puts them on for a moment as he reflects on a lifetime of making artifacts that will no doubt become family heirlooms. December marks Charley’s last month of making and selling jewelry through his storefront, Charley Hafen Jewelers Gallery, on 1411 South 900 East in Salt Lake City.
What does a man learn in thirty-plus years of working with precious metals? I ask this, but Charley seems less concerned with craftsmanship than with community. The thing he will miss most upon retirement are the human connections. Charley has collaborated with Utahns for decades, restoring heirlooms and crafting pieces for the most special of occasions.
He tells a story of one customer who came into the store after her husband died. She brought a bracelet given to her by her husband, and asked Charley to turn it into earrings for her and her nieces. As the two discussed the metamorphosis of this memento and what it signified, they choked back tears.
Years later, that same woman returned to have her wedding band resized to fit her right hand; she was ready for a new chapter in her life. Again, while discussing this transition of ring and life, the two turned to tears. “I think,” Charley says, “I am attached to—that they’ve trusted me. I guess that’s what makes these relationships or friendships. And we do this across this counter. And it’s an emotional thing.”
Charley puts himself into his craft. Even his storefront is connected to his home. No divide between life and work. But next month Charley will himself embark on a new chapter as he retires and moves to Thailand with his wife, Pam. Their home is currently for sale. And Charley, for the first time in his career, is holding a sale at the store: everything is 30% off this December. Which means not just a chance to own a custom piece of jewelry at a great price, but also a chance to own a piece of one man’s legacy and a symbol of commitment to a congruous life.