Since I haven't been to any bead stores, nor have I purchased any beads online for at least the last 6 weeks, I thought I'd revisit, at least in memory, some of the better bead stores around here. Well, two.
The first is Brea Bead Works. It's located, unsurprisingly, in Brea. Their website has changed since the first time I saw it, because I could have sworn there were pictures of the store itself.
They have two large storefronts in the strip mall where they're located. One is the bead area, the other is a large workshop. Workshops and classes are a major focus of this store. They do lampworking and fusing, as well as some very nice bead weaving and stringing classes. They also have a kumihimo instructor, which isn't common.
I've subscribed to their emails, which come about once a week. They have a lot of trunk shows from local or visiting bead artists, and you have an opportunity to purchase many art beads or one-of-a-kind works to incorporate in your own work. I got a carved tagua-nut focal bead there that is going to make an amazing statement. Pics to follow.
The bead area is unique among bead stores in that it seems to have tons of open space. It makes the bead-buying experience different (not sure if it's better or worse) when you're not crammed in among shelves or aisles elbow to elbow. For a wheelchair user, it's a welcome relief. Much of their unique stock is on tables, which can be problematic for someone in a chair, as seeing and reaching may be difficult. They have a decent selection of seed beads & bugles, tools and storage supplies, and a smallish area of semi-precious. Nice, but small. They stock a fair amount of chain, books and ribbons. I found a few unique items, including some enameled magnetic clasps I'd never seen before, and some sterling silver hand-worked clasps I fell in love with, but couldn't afford. Those were behind the counter.
Staff is friendly and helpful, and I'll definitely be back there. I'd give it a solid 8 out of 10.
Second store is OC Beads. I was aghast when we walked into this store. The walls are lined floor to ceiling with various kinds of semi-precious, stone, shell, pearl, and glass bead strands. The tables in the center, and the large open pull-out shelves along all the walls are jammed full of tiny glass bowls with a few (2 to 200) beads of zillions of kinds. Need sea glass? They've got 50 different beads. Coral, shell, all sorts of semi-precious. The pull-out shelves make it as if they have hundreds of feet of counterspace.
The middle is a bit tight for wheelchair navigation, but the outer area is wide enough. There's a work-at bar in the back of the store where they welcome beaders during store hours. We met Mishi, the manager(?), when we were there, and she was so friendly, interested in seeing some of my work.
Behind the counter she carries an amazing selection of precious and semi-precious stones of higher value. I'm still drooling over a string of watermelon tourmaline briolets that I was soooo tempted to buy, price be damned.
As you can see in the pictures on the site, they have lots of ribbon, leather, satin cord, there were some unique African paper beads, just too darn much to list. It's like the flip side of Brea Beads. Not much space, a surfeit of inspiration. Rather than workshops, the focus here is beads.
Isn't that the way it's supposed to be? I'm tempted to give this store a 10. Other than a little difficulty reaching the middle tables, I didn't find anything I didn't like about this store.