By Kelly Pollock, feature writer for The Buzz Cafe
Bead in Hand, located at 145 Harrison Street in the Oak Park Arts District, has two reasons to celebrate this November: the kickoff of their 30th anniversary celebration year and the 10-year anniversary of Kim Humphrey owning the store.
As a child, Kim was taught to do things with her hands. She remembers being five years old and her mother sitting her at the sewing machine to practice stitching on paper. “My grandmother lived with us until her death. She was an artist and it was considered a valuable skill. I realized later in my life that not all families see it that way.” But it wasn’t until she was a mother with young children that Kim started beading. “I had little kids and I needed something that didn’t talk back and didn’t move and it really fit the bill,” she says with a laugh.
Although she can’t pinpoint the date, Kim thinks she started patronizing Bead in Hand within a few years of their 1993 opening. She took a few classes and was soon working at the store on weekends. As her kids got older, she was able to add more hours. When Doris Weinbaum, the then-owner, announced that she was planning to retire and wanted to sell the store, Kim worried what it might mean for her future. “I loved the shop, the customers, the beads, my job, all of it. I didn’t want that to change.” And so ten years ago, Kim took a leap of faith and purchased the store.
Kim is honest that being the owner of a small business has its challenges. “People today have so many ways of spending their money that I think it lessens the amount they have for any one place at any one time.” But Bead in Hand also has a unique market niche which draws people into the store. “It’s a tactile business. It’s so much more helpful for people to see the product in person before they buy. We’re one of very few bead stores in the area so we draw customers from all of Chicagoland.”
They can also offer more personalized service than a chain craft store. “It’s nice to be able to provide that service. To be able to explain to people what their options are. We aren’t just scanning items at a register. Most of our items don’t have a price tag so all our employees have to know our inventory and be able to answer questions.” Jewelry repair is another unique service that Bead in Hand offers. “There are very few places where you can take your favorite necklace from your grandmother and have it restrung,” says Kim.
Classes are one of the best ways to educate potential and current customers. Prospective students can view the current schedule and register for classes online. Classes are taught by Kim or by employee Kate Linne and include Basic Earring Design, Basic Stringing, Beginning Bead Weaving, Bead Embroidery, Knotting, and Kumihimo: Japanese Braiding. Classes vary in length from 1½-2½ hours and in cost from $35-45. Materials are generally not included.
Bead in Hand is kicking off their 30th anniversary year with special events throughout the month of November starting with a November 11 trunk show of semi-precious beads. On November 18, the staff jewelry show begins, and on November 25, the traditional snowflake ornament drop-in event returns for the first time since before the pandemic.
On October 11, Kim was honored by the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce as a Community Titan “for championing the small business community … with might and ferocity.” The Community Titan Awards were presented to individuals this year in lieu of the traditional Spotlight Awards that focused on small businesses. The Titans were nominated via online submission and according to the Chamber of Commerce are “those who have worked tirelessly, relentlessly and whole-heartedly for the well-being of our business community. Their strong and wide shoulders support the rest of us to grow and flourish.”
Being a small business owner is a tremendous responsibility, but Kim is still passionate about the art she discovered almost 30 years ago. “One of the great things about beads is that it is a never-ending learning experience. You can string beads on wire, you can do bead weaving, you can embroider with beads. There are so many different ways to incorporate them that you are never really finished learning. There’s always something new. It’s amazing.”
Bead in Hand is located at 145 Harrison Street. They are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 11-6, Wednesday from 1-6, and Saturday from 10-5. They are closed on Sunday. They can be reached at 708-848-1761 or [email protected].