After nearly 30 years, the owners of The Bead Shop, one of Laguna Beach’s two long-lived stores for beads and jewelry-making, are moving on. The sale of the shop is still in limbo, but Peggy Smith and her husband George Harney, who helps run the store, are moving together to Port Angeles, Wash.
“I just hope the tradition of The Bead Shop carries on,” says Harney.
In 1973, the Three Ladies, as they are affectionately referred to, opened The Bead Shop just half a block north of its current location at 899 S. Coast Highway. Suzy Millette, Virginia Mason, and Anna Lee Dixon hired Smith on in 1982, moved the store in 1985, and not long after sold the business to Smith.
Having moved to Laguna from her hometown of Cleveland in 1979, Smith attended UC Irvine, majoring in biology and English. Still, beads struck a chord with her.
“I used to make earrings here while I was waiting for my laundry,” Smith explains. The Three Ladies were looking to hire someone on part-time, and so Smith’s natural interest became a vocation. It did not take much time before Smith started working five days a week and was in position to take over the business.
“I’m romantically attached to this place,” she says. “I love the idea of it.”
“It’s something parents and kids can do that they did 50 years ago,” Harney says about what the store offers.
Indeed, from Smith and Harney’s vantage point, they’ve seen cross-generational harmony hastened and nurtured as patrons who came to the store as children now bring their progeny to share in the act of creating their own jewelry.
“If there’s one thing I’ll miss, I’ll miss the people,” Smith says.
The Bead Shop has seen its share of high profile customers over the years. From Pat Benatar to Nancy Sinatra, Julia Roberts to Sheryl Lowe (wife of actor Rob Lowe), the store attracts enthusiasts in search of rare and unique beads.
Strands of glass and ceramic beads hang from pegs like skeins of wool and create a textured rainbow along one wall. Fluted bowls and divided trays holding beads of varying hue and size blanket a counter like a crazy quilt. Behind the counter, finished earrings keep company with tools of the trade, pliers for twisting wires and pinching links, and trays of metal clasps for finishing necklaces.
Harney fondly remembers one Art Walk when 250 people, he reckons, gathered around the store to see the Buck Naked and the Chapped Cheeks band perform.
Harney, a retired boilermaker, met Smith at Laguna’s Saloon 20 years ago.
“We’ve been together ever since,” he smiles. The two married last year.
Since he had summers off, Harney began helping out at the store in 1995.
The shop only arrived as in Internet presence last year. Harney thinks younger owners and their corresponding energy can turn the shop around.
That’s where the Byrnes come in.
Though the deal has yet to be finalized, Michael Byrne, owner of the downtown Saloon, has made a bid for the business. He is negotiating with the landlord as the rent has remained unchanged for 30 years, says Byrne’s wife, Cindy. The plan is for Byrne to run the store until his sister Mary relocates from Wisconsin when she can take over the owner’s duties.
“They’re both business savvy,” Harney observes. “I think they will bring it back.”
“I mean, the store’s already gone on for 40 years,” Smith says. “It’s not going to stop.”
As the couple settles into retirement in Port Angeles, their lives might still have beads in them. They guess they might end up selling beads on weekends at street fairs.
“It’s all I know how to do,” Smith says.
Photos by Jody
The Bead Shop displays its inventory in a smorgasbord of textures and color.