Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bead Stores

Okay, yes.  My living room kinda looks like a bead store.  There probably is enough beads stashed away to open up a small store, IF I really wanted to  give up anything in my stash.  (I should mention that much of my bead stash comes from Sally Smith - the Bead Lady Extraordinaire, who sadly does not have a website that I can direct ya'll too.  She's been VERY generous to me, with more than just beads.  Someday, I'll interview Sally and record some of her beady adventures traveling the country with a home full o' beads.)
Sally (the Bead Lady), Jim (the Bead Dude) and Jason (the Bead Son) at the MD Fairie Fest, 2008.

While living in Columbus, OH, I was fortunate to have access to several great bead stores - Byzantium (sadly no longer in business but an excellent resource for seed beads and funky focals), Ally Beads (also out of business but the best gemstones and lampwork trunk shows!), Gahanna Beads (I found some gorgeous vintage ceramic beads here that I'm hoarding) and the best over-all shop - 1 Stop Bead Shop.

1 Stop remains my favorite because this shop owner knows how to run a successful bead business.  Lots of classes, lots of selection, great sales and regular clearances.  While her staff is so-so (not always friendly or willing to extend advertised sales to new customers that I've brought to the store), I could always find something new along with the staples that I stopped in for.  From a business perspective, I was continually impressed with the variety of events offered.  This owner had a real knack for bringing in new and repeat business - "garage" sales, where customers could sell off surplus/unused beads, 50% off days, make and takes, open beading hours.  Lots to do, lots of opportunity to "play" with beads.

I haven't had the same experience here in MI - yet.  There's a small local shop that's trying to build its business but they do very little advertising.  Frankly, they're sitting on a gold mine as they are well-stocked and the owners are emotionally invested in the beads, if not the business.

So, what do you look for in a bead shop?  Any favorite sales ideas?  Favorite shops?  I'm curious.  Curious as someone who wants to support local shops and also curious as someone who might want to have a shop in the future.  :)


  1. What part of MI do you live in? My sister lives near Ann Arbor in Picnkney and during our visit last November my mother and I visited MANY bead stores. We don't have much in Ohio (we live in Youngstown area) and have to drive at least an hour in any direction. However a bead shop ironically just opened up at the end of my street. Not enough going on there though, sadly. She has a wall full of decor and only 2 tables and a few shelves full of beads. For the constant beader, that's not enough. She also doesn't have any stringing materials of any sort, nor many findings outside of a few headpins, toggles and crimps.

    So what do I look for? A versatile shop with a lot of education. I hate walking into a bead shop and saying "do you carry this" and they don't know what it is. Also if you don't have it, then I need a way to improvise so it would help for the worker to be creative as well to help make suggestions. But education is important because beaders often travel into other realms such as ceramics, metals, clays, patinas and more so if someone is looking to expand their techniques I like a place that can tell me a little about and get me started on the right path. They don't have to carry EVERYTHING but the basics help. Also they need to keep up with trends. Like kumihimo, bead weaving, leather wraps, etc.

    As far as sales, you HAVE to have promotions. I have a jewelry page on FB an just started like a weekly auction, a top fan of the month.. people need incentive. They need interaction. And in today's online world, you better be active with the online community as well.

    P.S. I want a shop too some day :0)

  2. Looks like I'll have to travel across the state, then. :)

    I just get so disappointed when I see a potential success used so badly... but I can think of it as future market research.

  3. Ohh, how cool that you might want your own shop someday!

    As someone who's worked in two bead stores and visited a ton of them over the years, I think that the most important thing a bead shop can do is offer classes and host events -- basically, provide things that people can't get online or at Michael's.

    The other best thing is to create an environment where employees feel appreciated (in terms of time and talent) and part of a real community. They'll be much more likely to put in the effort to make the store a great place to shop and work.