In a 300-square-foot storefront on Beverly Boulevard, Sweets Beads is packed floor to ceiling with an enormous selection of beads and jewelry-making supplies. These days, Susan Elias' shop is a hotbed of activity as customers look to make the beaded jewelry they're seeing in fashion magazines and Beverly Hills boutiques. Elias spoke to Jolie Gorchov about the changing business.
I'm from London, and I moved to Los Angeles in 1972. I always used to make jewelry, and I would go to all the bead stores. I found I enjoyed buying the beads more than anything else. I would grossly over-buy, as so many of my customers do now. So I decided I wanted to go into business.
In 1986, my husband Raymond and I had dropped our third child off for his first day of school, and I said we should start looking around for a small bead store. On that day, we drove along Beverly and found this storefront. That same afternoon, we made the deal.
We see a lot of trends come and go. We had the rhinestone rage, when a lot of jackets were embellished with rhinestones. Now it's come around again, and all the jeans are being beaded now. Every time I think about removing some of the items in the store, I'm wrong because they always come into fashion again.
Today, the Austrian crystals and this new elastic from Japan just fly out of here because customers want to copy the Fred Segal and Barneys bracelets. It's very hot right now. The stores sell them for much more, but my customers know they can make them for half the price. I predict this craze will go just beyond Christmas.
A lot of my customers who used to buy wholesale have dropped off because of the Internet, (where) you can buy anything.
I would never think of (selling) online. It's a little bit too time-consuming, and I'm not that computer savvy. I've looked at some of the companies online like eBay. They don't impress me at all, not the prices or the way it's done.
We'll stay here. We've always tried to keep it a small business. But we want to revitalize within the next six months and remodel the store. It definitely needs perking up. There's a fine line between old-fashioned and frumpy, and we've come to that line.
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