It's my sincere pleasure to welcome you to beadshop.com. Whether this is your first time or your hundredth time visiting us, our goal is to bring you both products and projects that inspire you to create jewelry to treasure, give and share; jewelry that reflects your aesthetic and your style. I started selling beads in 1982 and a day doesn’t go by that I am not grateful to have had a career in such a wonderful industry. I have had the pleasure of witnessing new beaders find their creative voices in class or around the beading table, mentored employees who have gone on to have successful careers in jewelry making and/or teaching beading and always felt honored to work side-by-side with incredibly talented people.
In 1982, I had a goal: Start a business that would allow me the income I needed to support myself and my daughter and a schedule that would accommodate coming and going as needed, rather than fixed hours at an office job. I didn’t want to be an absent mom and I realized I couldn’t work a regular job with long hours. As a new, single parent, I had to make difficult choices but my mission was clear; My only logical choice was to quit my job in Silicon Valley and start my own business. Only by being my own boss would I have the freedom and flexibility I needed in my life.. Little did I know that 33 years later, I would still be in the bead business! I had no idea it would be so successful. At the time, I just knew I had to be the bread winner and best mom I could be all at the same time. Here’s the story...
In 1957, my family moved to California from New York. I was 8 years old and little did I know that I was about to grow up in Palo Alto, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. This was the valley before Apple and Google and Facebook. Hewlett-Packard was just starting and my father moved our family out to California so he could work in the semiconductor industry. I had an artistic, bohemian mother who opened a small, eclectic store selling antiques, beads and vintage jewelry. In the afternoons after school, I would bike over to my mom’s store and work for her; I would dust, wait on customers and make jewelry to sell. It was my mother, Lydia, who taught me all about retail and customer service. Lydia instilled in me from a very early age the love of antiques, art and being with people. I fell in love with every aspect of retail, but especially the beads. I was bitten by the bead bug and it never really left. It wasn’t until years later, in 1983, that I rediscovered beads and started The Bead Shop, which later became beadshop.com.
To the best of my recollecting, this is the timeline...
1957: Moved to California with my family from New York. Grew up in Palo Alto and San Francisco during the heyday of the Haight-Ashbury. What a time!
1968-1972: Went to UC Berkeley and graduated in fine arts.
1974-1980: Moved back to New York and lived in Manhattan. Worked in advertising and marketing. Met my future husband walking on the street near my brownstone on the west side. We were married a few years later. My daughter, Ashley, was born in 1981.
1982: Moved back to California to be closer to my family while I raised Ashley. Tried working as a corporate art director at a video game company, but found I couldn’t manage both work and motherhood. Lydia, asked me if I wanted to become a partner in her business; she was ready to retire. Her store, antiques etc., was a sleepy, little business located in downtown Palo Alto at 177 Hamilton Avenue. Maybe she made $50 a day in sales? My mom didn’t sweat it much...she enjoyed coming and going and talking with customers. Her original rent was $55 a month and when she felt like closing, she’d put up a sign, “Gone fishing...So should you!” I jumped at the chance to be my own boss. I quit my job, put $2000 into the partnership and remodeling the store. Over time, I slowly convinced my mother we should just sell beads (and get rid of the china and glassware). I would say: Let’s sell something well….NOT ” let’s sell a lot of things “.
1990 This was a pivotal year; the Hamilton Avenue store went through extensive remodeling and our second store in Los Altos, California opened. We also produced our first mail order catalog, 99Beads. From 1990-1996, we opened 3 more stores and a warehouse for catalog fulfillment. Lydia retired but would still come into the store.
1991: Lydia passes away. It was unexpected but she predicted it. Earlier in the year she told me, “This will be my last Thanksgiving and Christmas.” I thought she was crazy...but she was right. She always told me growing up she didn’t want to grow old. And so she didn’t; she died at age 71 after a short illness. Hundreds of friends and strangers came to her Memorial Service and told wonderful stories of how they loved Lydia and all she had taught them about life. And here I thought I was the only one!
1996: In September of 1996, www.beadshop.com was born. Our website URL, www.beadshop.com, was registered and slowly we transitioned from the mail order catalog to online web sales. Meanwhile, our classes in the shop were so popular, we had to add another office/bead studio in Mountain View to accommodate overflow demand from the store for classes and to house the website.
1999: Ashley graduates from high school and leaves for University of Michigan in the fall. I’m happy and sad at the same time!
2000: We continued to grow and outgrew the tiny Hamilton Avenue store. In 2000, we moved from 500 square feet on Hamilton Avenue to 3500 square feet at 158 University Avenue with a dedicated classroom. Before long we had a well-known teaching facility we nicknamed, “Bead U”. Students flew in to take classes from talented instructors and designers from all parts of the country. Without a doubt, we were pushing the limits of creativity with our list of extraordinary instructors and class line-up. It was like a convergence of talent and, because of this community of teachers and students, our reputation grew. The website continued to grow.
2000-2007: All we did is expand and improve on what came before. We eventually became a full-time team of 25 employees and a growing reputation for talent and creativity. I decided it was too difficult to run multiple retail locations, so we closed the three stores and focused energy and people on the Palo Alto store and beadshop.com.
2008: The economy starts to show signs of serious slow-down and store sales become flat. Customer traffic drops off and our sales fall dramatically as more and more customers buy their products from bead shows and websites. We are still doing well on our website, but the economic outlook for brick and mortar is bleak. It becomes harder to keep our doors open.
In April of 2008, I can’t make up my mind about what to do. My daughter, Ashley is soon to be married in July, so I decide to wait until after the wedding to make a decision. On July 8, as I drive back home across the Golden Gate Bridge from the wine country, I make up my mind to close the store. I head back to Palo Alto and tell the team and my customers that we are closing. This was not easy, but I had no choice; our costs and overhead exceeded the income and we were, for the first time, losing money with no change expected in the near future. This was not an easy decision; I had happily raised my daughter and mentored many bead artists and employees and lived a comfortable life because of The Bead Shop. I loved this business and so many depended on The Bead Shop for employment, for a place to meet friends…. how was I going to close the doors? It had been a successful, 26 year career...was this the end? Yes and No. On August 26, 2008, I closed the doors to The Bead Shop and I thought it was the end of the journey...
2009-10: With just one employee, Nicole, I kept moving forward. It was mainly a year of paying off debt, including selling my house to pay bills. When I closed the store, we owed $350,000 to banks and suppliers. It was not a good place to be! But, with time and commitment, I forged ahead and finally got out of debt. What a relief! At this point, I was living in a studio at my father’s house until I got settled and out of debt. The Bead Shop was behind me. With Nicole’s and Brittany’s help, we created our first Youtube Video, Silk Wrapping with Kimono Cord. We started paying attention to Facebook and posting things we thought people would like.
In early January 2010, we had our first online sales. I realized there could be light at the end of the tunnel. So, ever-so-slowly and with a great deal of care, we redesigned the website and started selling beads and showing people how to make jewelry.
2011: Moved into my apartment in Mountain View and used one of the two bedrooms for product and fulfillment. The staff began to grow. We added Karen, then Sam and then Beckie. For the next 2-½ years, we ran the business out of my apartment. I had two bedrooms and before we moved into our offices in Redwood City, I had four employees working out of my apartment every day. I have no idea how we did it!
2013: In January my grandson, Elijah was born...the second happiest day of my life. I had no idea how wonderful being a grandmother would be, but I was running back and forth between beadshop.com and helping with the new baby and my apartment was just getting too crowded with people. In September of 2013, I leased an office in Redwood City, Ca. We had completely outgrown my apartment-office and in no time, we filled all the space with product and people.
2014-15: We continue to grow; creating new video projects and and handouts to inspire you to build unique jewelry. Some projects take off and have been so popular the old site crashes. So, in early 2014 we decided we had to find a newer platform to run our website. Like in the old days, we needed more room but this time it’s not a physical space but a virtual one. As we grow, we continue to work on designing a new, faster website. And that’s where we are today. We are still a team of less than a dozen people. I want to try and stay small. We fill 50-100 orders every weekday, answer your calls and do our best to create projects and carry products that are unique and special. My daughter and her family are living in Washington, DC and I travel back every 8 weeks to see them. I would say life is good! I didn’t know my bead career would take off again, but then I remember the motto: “Do one thing well.” And that’s what we try and do every day. Thank you so much for support. You are the best customers in the world! And, thank you, Lydia for inspiring in me the confidence to pick myself up and get back on the horse. It can be done!