The Bead Store, a quaint, little shop located in Hilton Village, offers a variety of beads and other jewelry materials. Strings of shiny beads in all different shapes, sizes and colors hang in neat rows on the shop walls. Music plays softly in the background and a large work surface called the beading table sits in the back of the shop, covered in an array of tools and jewelry projects in the making.
Pam Larkin, owner and operator of The Bead Store, prides herself on the personalized customer experience offered to each person who walks through the door. “Once a person comes in here, we’ve made a new customer. We have quality beads and quality customer service,” says Larkin.
If a customer comes in looking for a specific type of bead or has questions about a particular project, Larkin will work to find what the customer is looking for. She says, “Sometimes we hear ‘what do I do with this?’ giving us a chance to either show or suggest ways to use that bead.”
The Bead Store has more than just beading materials, people can also come in for both one-on-one or group classes. These classes are open to all ages and experience levels. In addition, Larkin offers jewelry repair services, such as pearl knotting.
Originally from Blytheville, Arkansas, Larkin has lived in Newport News for 32 years with her retired military husband of 52 years. She has always been a crafter, from knitting, crocheting, quilting, sewing, needlepoint, cross stitch and even stained glass — she has dabbled in all things creative art.
Larkin’s love of beading started with a stained-glass lampshade she made as a Christmas gift. Wanting to hang beads from the lampshade, she went to her local bead store to buy materials and ended up enrolling in a beading class. From then on, she continued taking classes and reading books on beading. She has been “hooked” ever since and has spent more than 25 years perfecting her craft.
Larkin says her favorite part of beading is teaching others who share her passion for bead work. She has been teaching bead classes for 18 years. She eventually became an instructor at the Bead Store and when the original owner retired in 2010, she took over the store. She now runs the shop with the help of Norah Steele, who has been with her for 17 years and helps teach classes. Steele worked with the original owner and has stayed with the business ever since. Steele says, “I’m a retired banker who doesn’t want to play with numbers anymore. This is more fun.”
The two beaders hope to see more new faces at The Bead Store. Although they have customers from other areas, including Virginia Beach, even some locals have never visited the shop.
“People who live in Hilton Village who walk by here daily didn’t even realize we’re here,” says Larkin with a smile. Since the pandemic, Larkin and Steele have been working to rebuild their customer base. Familiar faces are returning and they’re also noticing a growing number of young customers with interests in crafting. “It kind of fell out of favor and now it’s beginning to come back,” Larkin says.
While the popularity of certain materials and bead styles have evolved over the years, Larkin hopes to inspire more people to explore the art of beading. Some customers find the beading process to be a calming, therapeutic experience. “When you immerse yourself in a beading project,” Steele says, “you can let your mind sort of go free. It’s very relaxing.”
Larkin and Steele want the shop to be a fun place where crafters feel welcome. They encourage people to stop by for what they call open beading. Open beading means that anybody can visit the store and hang out at the beading table to work on a project.
Larkin says, “We encourage people to come in anytime and just sit and bead.”
TO THE POINT:
The Bead Store
Address: 10371 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Pam Larkin