An Epitaph to a Bead Store

An Epitaph to a Bead Store

I just got the shock of my life, though, in the back of my mind, I had been expecting it for the past five years.

The only small business owned bead store within 40 miles of me that carries Delica beads is closing today.

No more will I come out of that little store clutching a pink shopping bag full of tiny, wonderful and beautifully-colored beads. 

No more will I be able to get hands-on advice from an expert who’s been in this business for 30 years and taught me how to do odd-count peyote stitch when no YouTube video could. 

No more can I look forward to a trip out of Los Angeles, into a beautiful part of Ventura County, with only the impetus of these tiny treasures to impel me.

This moment is devastating and it absolutely breaks my heart.

While Creative Castle closed because the owner retired and couldn’t find a buyer for the business, it isn’t the first bead store in Southern California to close and won’t be the last. Some stores just can’t compete with the internet. And that thought makes me wonder.  When did we get to the point where we happily abandoned the instant gratification of going to a store near us to shop for convenience? To compare colors in a way we can’t over a video monitor whose limited color software never accurately shows the colors we end up with? Or did our laziness and the greed of property storefront leasing companies make the killing decision for all of us?

I didn’t want it to come to this. Blessed for a decade to live equidistant between two of L.A.’s major Delica bead retailers – San Gabriel Bead Company and Creative Castle, I was way luckier than most beaders. When one didn’t have the color I wanted on a Saturday, I would gladly travel 40 miles the next day to the other store, which more often than, not, had the color I wanted and/or needed for my project.

When San Gabriel closed, I mourned. Their prices out of the two stores were better, and they had a larger selection, but I told myself it was all right. Creative Castle would always be there now for me and it wasn’t any farther than SGBC had been.

Then I found out five years ago, the owner of Creative Castle was looking for a buyer.

While that scared me, I was in a beading “slump” at the time. Stressed over my job situation and a new diagnosis of osteoarthritis through my spine and feet took precedence and rightly so, but I let it wipe out one of the only steadfast joys I had in life at the time – the joy of beadwork.

Still, I never completely let beading go. Being a caregiver, I had time at work when clients were at appointments or resting, to bead. I never completely stopped going to my one lone store, clinging to the ritual of going there when I had a few spare dollars as if it were the only thing keeping me connected to a natural-born talent I have and something I loved doing.

Creative Castle - handful of delica beads
Creative Castle – handful of delica beads

These are the last tubes I will ever buy from Creative Castle. They aren’t particularly pretty in the limited lighting of our little apartment, but they were shiny and pretty – or at least interesting – in the store. Besides colors I thought I could use now, I expanded my “what-ifs” in light of the store’s 50% off clearance sale, seeing potential in colors that could shadow and shade, add texture and contour in future projects. I did this because all the black and white beads had been sold days or weeks before, and those would have been the “smart” ones to buy because I use them in practically all my pen warp and bracelet projects. 

But my impulse buys now weren’t about being “smart”. They were about taking advantage of sales and thinking of the future – a future I didn’t want, where there would be no more “hands-on” teaching, or color comparisons before buying, or excitement over seeing the Miyuki company’s new colors in person. They were about buying a $17.00 tube of beads for $8.50 now, in person, knowing I will never buy it for full price from the unreliable color images on a monitor in the future.

They were about sadness and loss, and as an epitaph to the bygone era of in-person bead shopping and how less shiny my future will be from now on.

Kristine Cherry

Owner of KC Dragonfly.

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