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Man behind Charlie's will be remembered for rice pudding and his conversations over coffee

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lifestyles Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd Dispatch
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Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

The man behind Charlie’s Restaurant — known for his rice pudding and for owning the restaurant where business people from the East Brainerd Mall would meet daily — has died.

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Abas “Charlie” Korchari, 86, of Brainerd, died with his family at his bedside Sunday at Good Samaritan Society-Bethany in Brainerd.

Korchari owned Charlie’s Restaurant with his wife Deloris for 42 years. The restaurant opened in the Elks Building in 1960. Seven years later it moved into the East Brainerd Mall, as one of the original tenants of the mall. The store closed in 2002.

Businesses from the Brainerd East Mall and those near the mall would meet at Charlie’s Restaurant every day for coffee, including Wendell Fristedt and Dennis Cielinski, who then worked at Montgomery Ward; Larry and Cheryl Stechmann, who worked at Ben Franklin, Thrifty Drug and Hallmark; and John Sundby, who was with J.C. Penney.

“We went to Charlie’s every day for coffee,” said Cielinski. “We never missed a day. Charlie was a great guy. Everybody talked about his rice pudding. It was his recipe. People would come from different parts, further away from Brainerd for his rice pudding.

“Charlie always made a point, when he had a spare moment where he’d be at the booths talking to people. That was a big thing he always did. He was a compassionate person.”

Larry Stechmann said it was a good 16 years of having coffee every day at Charlie’s Restaurant.

“You couldn’t ask for a better guy,” Stechmann said of Korchari. “He was a great, honest man.

“The food was always awesome and the whole family worked there.”

Stechmann said it was always interesting talking with Korchari because of his history.

Originally from Albania, Korchari fought Communists in the resistance underground and was imprisoned from 1944 to 1953, beginning at age 17. He endured torture and hardship for nine long years. He recounted his story in a book published in 1971 titled “Escape from Hell.” After escaping from a Communist prison camp in 1953, Korchari made his way to the United States in 1956 and finally to Brainerd in 1960. He became a U.S. citizen.

“He was always so fun and interesting to talk to,” said Sundby, who now owns J & B Western Store. “He had so many stories to share and when his book came out it was unbelievable.

“I was the president of the mall association and he was always so nice to work with. What impressed me most was his family. All of his five children worked there (at one point or another). They are a really nice family.”

“I ate down at Charlie’s a lot. He was known for good food. One of my favorite things to eat was one of his soups and hamburger steak ... He’ll be missed.”

Friends may call from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Nelson-Doran Funeral Home in Brainerd. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Francis Church., with visitation one hour before services.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER, staff writer, may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.

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Jennifer Stockinger
(218) 855-5851
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