Originally created 04/03/02

The Bead Business



Even after six months in business, Deborah Hall continues to get calls from people wondering what exactly a store named YaYa Beads sells.

It's not a hippie shop with incense burning and psychedelic love beads on display, said Mrs. Hall, who runs the Washington Road store with her husband and daughter. It is, however, the first local store specializing exclusively in the supply of make-it-yourself bead jewelry.

Around the store, dessert cups and Mason jars hold thousands of small beads separated into enough colors to rival a crayon factory.

Mr. Hall, a retired military man, and Mrs. Hall, whose interest in beads started while she was growing up outside New Orleans, thought for two years about opening the store.

Finally, they found a 1,200-square-foot space available in the Augusta Business Center and decided to jump into the market before someone else did.

"If you wait too long, somebody's going to take your idea and run with it," Mr. Hall said. "So, I said it's time to stop pondering and go for it."

According to a survey by the Hobby Industry Association, 11 percent of the nation's households had at least one person who crafted with beads last year. That was up from 9 percent of households with "beaders" the year before.

While bead jewelry dates back to ancient times, a mod-ern renewal began appearing in fashion magazines and on actresses during the early 1990s.

Bead stores cropped up in major cities, particularly in the western part of the country.

But local hobbyists, many of whom have turned their craft into side businesses, said it had been difficult to find bead supplies in the area.

"I know a lot of people that I've met have gone to Atlanta or Columbia, South Carolina, to bead stores - those were the closest ones," said Geri Grinstead, who has made and sold jewelry from her Martinez home for several years.

Aiken resident Linda Levitt said she often bought beads through trade shows, hundreds of which are held each year nationally to sell bead supplies.

Ms. Levitt turns the craft into extra money by selling high-end beaded jewelry in stores in New York and Florida and at the Aiken Center for the Arts.

"It's just a hobby," she said, "that's turned into a small business."

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.