Business Profile: Beads of Westchester, White Plains
By Pat Casey | May 30, 2012
The thing about beads is that there are so many to choose from. Not only are they colorful and made from many different materials, if you look a bit deeper you will find a story in every bead and some intrigue when you find out where they came from.
White Plains resident, Nancy Nygreen, proprietor of Beads of Westchester (formerly Beadworks), located at 96 Westchester Avenue in White Plains, opened the business during a nor’easter in April 2007. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “It rained so hard the roof began to leak in several places and we had buckets scattered around to catch the drops. We’ve never had that problem since and despite the weather, people came out. The mayor was here and all the members of the Common Council. We had a wonderful grand opening.”
Nygreen has a doctorate in Political Science and freelances as a market research analyst, with an impressive list of clients including Microsoft and Wharton. Beads, however, have become her passion.
“I was looking for a retirement project and a good friend had this bead business up in Providence, Rhode Island, that she was looking to get rid of. I thought ‘that could be fun’,” Nygreen reminisced. The original store was next to Brown University and served a student clientele. Nygreen ran both locations simultaneously until last December, when she closed the Providence boutique.
The White Plains store is a destination spot. Customers travel from more than 30 or 40 miles out. “Many customers say the location is convenient because of its proximity to The Westchester, which is across the street, and I-287,” Nygreen said. There is free parking at the Stop & Shop lot a few stores down.
There are over 1,000 SKUs in the store, holding beads of every color and material imaginable as well as metal hardware, clasps, chains, and symbolic objects, including Buddhas and skulls. Strands of beads hang from the walls.
“We have an international selection,” explains Nygreen. “African traders bring beads made from recycled glass, snake vertebrae and cow bone. Some are authentic trade beads.”
There are Kazuri beads from Kenya, beads of wood and water buffalo bone from the Philippines, old Bohemian glass beads from the former Czech Republic, Venetian beads from Venice, Swarovsky crystal beads from Austria, crystal and glass from China, and unique designs from local artisans. There are many semi-precious stones in stock because they are the best-sellers, gold and silver and pearls, and one wall has a rainbow selection of seedbeads for jewelry weaving, relative newcomers to the store’s inventory.
Nygreen has a staff of artisans and jewelry designers ready to help customers. Sarah Hettinger, a former Art and History student with a Masters degree, works at the store “There is always something new happening and the exchange of ideas is very stimulating,” she said.
Both Nygreen and Hettinger agreed that beads are not a craft. Rather, they are a fashion. “We often say people see it there, but they make it here,” explained Nygreen. “We had one customer who saw a design made with beads accented with black diamonds. We don’t have black diamonds, but we do have black Swarovsky crystal, so the design could be replicated at a much lower cost.”
The popular wrap bracelets and Shamballa designs move quickly. “Our clientele is very loyal,” said Nygreen, “and they have very diverse tastes.”
Classes are ongoing. “We have introductory classes and project classes,” Nygreen said. Then there are Ladies Night Out sessions with wine and cheese, where people talk about what they are working on. And, there are popular trunk shows that appear on the schedule whenever a trader comes to town. “The trunk shows enable me to offer a variety of items I could never stock in the store,” Nygreen comments.
At the end of June Nygreen will host a Cha Cha seedbead trunk show and in October Eric, a dealer from Santa Fe, New Mexico, will bring turquoise from the south west. The store just welcomed a Swarovsky ambassador who brought new design techniques, including a crystal design clay that Nygreen will have in stock in the fall along with a schedule of classes on how to use the new product. For the summer months Nygreen is featuring a selection of turquoise and coral.
Beads of Westchester is open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Call (914) 437-7666 or visit www.beadswest.com for more information.