May 30, 2017 1708

The humble beginnings of our Ghurka story

The humble beginnings of our Ghurka Story…. 

Our Ghurka story began in the late eighties. My wife and I were living in Princeton, NJ where I was working as an educator. A beloved department secretary was retiring and as I was then a fairly low-level administrator at my institution, it fell to me to collect money from my colleagues and to purchase a gift for her. I was told simply that she enjoyed travel and hoped to travel following her retirement. I was accustomed to making these sorts of collections at the Christmas Holiday, and my fundraising efforts were successful. A stunning Ghurka “Express” No. 2 (in khaki twill) in a small shop on Witherspoon Street caught my attention with its practical design, classy lines and obviously sturdy construction. At that time in Princeton, NJ, if one wasn’t conspicuously wealthy, one often received a treatment from the retailers on Witherspoon Street, Nassau Street, and Palmer Square that I could only characterize as of a second-class citizen. When I entered the store to look at the bag, the sales clerk conveyed her judgment that I was not the type of clientele that would ordinarily purchase such an article and tried to steer my attention away from it informing me condescendingly that the bag was “expensive.” Though largely inured to such treatment, I was nevertheless piqued by her dismissiveness. I let her know in no uncertain terms that it was the one I wanted and proceeded to pull my collection envelope full of cash out of a pocket, place it on her countertop, and pay for it on the spot. The bag was presented on behalf of the department to the secretary but I don’t know the rest of her story as, soon thereafter, I would leave Princeton to pursue my career in the Midwest. I landed in Indiana, and in the University Park Mall in Mishawaka, Indiana, there was a small retailer (a classic “mom and pop” store) called Hans Rintzsch which to my delight carried Ghurka products. In 1995, I purchased the same “Express” No. 2 (khaki twill) for my wife’s birthday. Around that time, I also purchased a Ghurka wallet for myself. (Hans Rintzsch offered complimentary embossing of Ghurka products and we had these and a few subsequent Ghurka pieces embossed with our initials.) As everyone knows, during the nineties, retail was changing dramatically, and for reasons that I don’t really know, Hans Rintzsch soon closed. While we were disappointed with the closure, we were afforded by it an unusual opportunity as some items ended up being discounted quite steeply, and I purchased two other articles: the “Satchel” No. 17 and the “Cavalier” No. 98. The same qualities of practicality, classiness of the lines, and ruggedness of the construction that originally drew me to the “Express” No. 2, have continued though the years to draw me to other Ghurka pieces, for example: the wallet I currently use, a wallet my wife uses, a messenger bag (originally known as the “Walker Newsboy”) that my wife uses as a purse, the “Walker Backpack” (in the style of the “Explorer” No. 239) for our son, the “Overlander” No. 3 that I use on a daily basis, and two totes, (the “Tall Shopper” No. 20 and the “Stadium” No. 72 –the latter extraordinarily practical for traveling). All of the Ghurka pieces I have purchased are in khaki twill (with the exception of my first wallet and the “Pencil Case” No. 207, in port and chestnut leather, --the pencil case not being available in khaki twill). Nothing, in my mind, compares to the khaki twill and its practical, discreet, and understated elegance. The patina that the leather acquires over time and signs of wear only enhance the beauty of the pieces. I am not strictly speaking a “collector” of these articles, though there are a few other khaki twill pieces that I am keeping my eye on.