Today was the last day of normal shopping hours for my local bead shop, Beaded Bliss.
We’ve had a lot of losses in the beading community this year. Personally, I’ve blogged before about losing Bead Stash (a local bead shop about an hour from me, owned by Carole Ohl) and in the wider community we’ve lost the entire Bead & Button empire and seem to be in the process of losing Swarovski. And while that’s nothing in comparison to the human lives that have been lost and I’m thankful to have survived this year with my health, my employment, and my loved ones intact, knowing that Beaded Bliss was going to close has been weighing on my heart so heavily these past few months.
For those of you who don’t know my history, I started working at a bead shop called Beads Direct USA fresh out of high school in 2010. After three years, that shop moved from a retail location to an office space an became an online-only beading website that I still work for. I adore that job and the inventory management and shipping type of job that it has morphed into is a much better fit for me than customer-facing retail and service. But there were parts of the brick and mortar experience that I really missed. I missed teaching classes and having a place to sell my beadweaving patterns. I missed getting to bead with friends and having a place to hang out.
Then my dear friend Terri (and former customer from the brick and mortar shop) asked me if I had talked to Cathy at Beaded Bliss about doing guest instruction for my patterns. And did I know that she had open bead nights on Wednesdays where she was open late and I could work on projects with other beaders?
That’s how I met Cathy, who would become another dear friend and fixture in my life. For the past six or seven years, I have left work an hour early on Wednesdays, grabbed some Starbucks or cheap Kroger sushi and driven the half hour out to Beaded Bliss, where I would stay until she closed at eight. This is legitimately where I got most of my beading done. Every time I came up with a new beadweaving pattern, I would pick a Saturday morning and teach it at Bliss and have my lovely bead ladies proofread it for me (sometimes brutally teasing me for my little mistakes) before I would post it on Etsy. My first posts on this very blog are about scheduling classes at Bliss and sharing what I made at bead night one of those Wednesdays.
Since 2014, I’ve been in that shop almost weekly. I watched Joyce make incredible heirloom necklaces for her daughter, agonizing over every rose gold finding and crystal. I continued my friendship with Terri and watched her become a grandmother. I met the indominable Rose who makes the best Dill dip on earth and her husband Charlie, who takes wildlife photography and gave me some gorgeous photos of a bald eagle who lives near the Ohio river. I took classes from Wanda and watched her make beaded kippahs. I heard about Kathy’s marathons and stories about her early life as a nun. Carole took my classes and always made my patterns in the most delicate and beautiful shades of pink. I heard stories about the time Linda taught a Kumihimo class in the dark and laughed at Tresa’s jokes. I met Maggie, who works with me now and makes my life easier every week. I cried with Annette and gossiped with Lynn and laughed and laughed and laughed with Mur. We drank and had birthday parties compared projects and told stories. I met so many wonderful women at that table (and Charlie and Jim, of course). They enriched my life.
And Cathy and I became close. We commiserated as pattern designers and bead retailers. We gossiped about bead wholesalers and manufacturers and whined about the never-ending onslaught of weird two-holed beads. I watched the shop when she needed a vacation and got to remember what bead retail was like. I helped her set up the Beaded Bliss Etsy shop and Instagram and she helped me be less afraid of wire-wrapping, leather, and super glue. She saw all my new projects before anyone else and was a constant source of encouragement and welcome.
2020 was full of blows for a lot of businesses and the bead industry is not a particularly sturdy place to be to begin with. Cathy announced her retirement earlier this fall and I wasn’t super surprised. With bead shops, it’s always a matter of time and Cathy deserves her retirement. She has a grandbaby in Hawaii that needs visiting and deserves to have time to pursue her own hobbies and joys. To actually spend time in the beautiful house she and John have relentlessly renovated and improved. I am excited for her to have time to herself to enjoy, for the chance to sleep in when her insomnia is bad and to have an actual Saturday off.
I am going to really, really miss our beading clubhouse and the weekly nights with friends. Not having a place to teach is definitely messing with my pattern writing motivation, for sure. But I think what I’m feeling most right now is nostalgia and the root of that is gratitude. I am so grateful for the memories I made in this place and the chances for growth that Cathy fostered there. I’m grateful for my friends and the silliness they put up with for six years while I goofed off and used bad words and told stupid stories every Wednesday night.
Thank you for running such a magical place, Cathy. I am so grateful for having access to it for so many years. You made a very good thing and I benefitted from it, greedily. We all did. I love you and I miss you and I’m so excited for you to have more time and freedom. When it’s safe, I’m going to take you out for dinner sometime so we can whine about Etsy some more and I tell you Post Office horror stories and gossip about customers, just like old times.