A bead shop has rolled into Huntington.
Some of you might be surprised to know that specialty shops exist that literally sell only beads and the tools one needs to make beaded jewelry.
Michelle Sepanski opened Bead Utopia at 444 W. Jericho Tpke., Suite H, in Huntington on Nov. 11.
Why open a bead shop?
“I just feel excited about the endless possibilities of creating something new. And I like the camaraderie of the beading community,” said Sepanski, a Huntington resident.
Bead Utopia, a 900-square-foot store in West Hills Plaza, sells beads, stringing material, semiprecious stones, Swarovski crystals, needles, accent pieces and other products used to make beaded jewelry, home décor and other items. Fee-based and free classes also are taught at tables at the back of the store.
When I stopped by the shop Tuesday morning, a free open-beading session was going on.
Six women were sitting in the back of the store – socially distancing with one person per table – beading and sharing design ideas.
“I love being challenged. … The whole creative process. I love doing different color combinations,” said one of the women, Port Washington resident Mary Foisy, a longtime beader who had some of her intricately made, finished jewelry with her.
On Tuesday, she was working on a chenille stitch, smoky opal necklace with “daggers,” or small, pointy, glass accents.
Like many shops that sell items for hobbies, such as knitting, biking and puzzles, Bead Utopia has been doing well during the COVID-19 pandemic, as bored, socially distancing consumers have sought ways to pass the time, Sepanski said.
“I’m actually surprised,” said Sepanski, who said she is seeing younger women coming in, despite the beading demographic typically being older women.
Sepanski, 54, left her job as a director of marketing for a security equipment manufacturer in Hauppauge about five years ago before starting her own marketing consultancy a few months later.
That took a back seat after she discovered her love of beading.
The Huntington resident took master classes at bead shops on Long Island and in New Jersey.
She also taught regular classes at BEad Happy, a store that closed in Bethpage in August, and Crystal Garden Designs of NY in Sayville, and taught at bead shows in Tucson, Arizona, and Milwaukee.
She went to a weeklong retreat called Beads on the Vine in June 2017 and 2018 in California. She also took master classes and visited bead factories in the Czech Republic in March 2018 and China in March 2019.
“I started the beading and then I did some craft shows where I sold my finished jewelry,” Sepanski said.
In summer 2019, Sepanski opened an online bead store, Michelle Moderne, on Etsy, where she was selling Kumihimo kits and beading supplies. Kumihimo is a Japanese art form for making braided pieces of jewelry.
She was doing well with the Etsy business but found it difficult to manage inventory, she said.
“And that’s part of why I decided to expand into a [physical] retail environment,” she said.
When her friend Cathy Dempsey was retiring as the owner of BEad Happy, Dempsey asked her if she’d like to buy the shop, but Sepanski declined because she felt the 2,700 square feet of space would have been too much for her.
Aside from Bead Utopia, there are only two other retail bead stores left on Long Island – and none in Nassau County, Sepanski said.
“The beading world has been losing these stores because of people shopping online and at big-box stores, like Michaels and Hobby Lobby,” she said.
That is another reason she wanted to open a store.
“I really didn’t want to let down the community,” she said.
Retail Roundup is a column about major retail news on Long Island — store openings, closings, expansions, acquisitions, etc. — that is published online and in the Monday paper. To read more of these columns, click here. If you have news to share, please send an email to Newsday reporter Tory N. Parrish at [email protected]