Bead-shopping in Boston Part II: Cambridge and Wellesley
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 14, 2011 19:03
I continued my quest for a quality bead store in the Boston area after my favorite hometown bead store closed this past August. Having spent just under half of my $20 budget on 14 beads at my first two stops (Bead + Fiber of the South End and The Pear Tree of Brookline), I had slightly more money to spend at my next two stops: Boston Bead Company of Harvard Square and Sarapaan of Wellesley. If you've never been to a bead store, consider visiting these convenient locations first.
Boston Bead Company (Cambridge)
Most Wellesley students are familiar with Harvard Square. Its location is especially convenient if you try to reach Boston Bead Company twelve minutes before it closes at 7:00 p.m., as I did. It is located within a block of the Church Street exit of the Red Line's Harvard Square stop.
As I hurried in, I received anxious glances from the two women with the Friday-night closing shift. They knew, as well as I did, that searching a bead store in ten minutes yields either nothing or a hodgepodge of beads—either way, you will probably need longer than ten minutes.
But Boston Bead Company's extremely well-organized collection made this rush easier. It has a large selection of individual beads organized by wooden trays with price labels written according to each bead's quadrant of the tray—it was almost too perfect.
Despite a store's good organizational scheme, it takes time to become accustomed to where the wooden beads, crystal beads, bone beads, and other supplies are. But, realizing that I had five minutes left, I had to just grab anything that I found unusual or appealing. I bought a pair of light orange-brown hexagonal beads, a pair of granite-like square beads and a pair of brass hexagonal cylinders that remind me of hardware. Even a small handful of uncoordinated beads can turn into a favorite project if you are creative with what you have. I discovered the truth in this after perusing the next store, Sarapaan.
The Cambridge location of the Boston Bead Company is at 23 Church St. Cambridge, MA; Take the Red Line to Harvard Square.
Some Wellesley students may remember Sweet Beads of Wellesley, a cute bead store located over the railroad tracks just west of the Wellesley Square station. Unfortunately this store closed, but don't be too sad—Wellesley has another bead store, Sarapaan. It's less familiar to students because it's a much farther walk, or bike ride, from the College to its location across from Whole Foods.
"Sarapaan" means "variety" in Thai, the nationality of the store's owner. Sarapaan has an impressive selection of bead strands, the bulk option that most beaders prefer on economical grounds. From the street you can see these strands of color decorating the wall. The individual beads, however, are less well displayed. They are tucked in drawers and organized by material, instead of color. This is not conducive to browsing and I gave up on pulling out these drawers, opting instead for a couple of strands and breaking my budgetary restriction to buying only individual beads. I found sea green aventurine beads shaped like rectangles and brown Czech glass spheres, as well as a bead mat (a work surface that prevents beads from escaping). I was pleased to realize that these beads paired well with my purchases from Boston Bead Company.
Sarapaan is overpriced. Most bead stores are, although it's hard to tell when you are looking at the prices of unfamiliar beads (most bead stores carry several common products, which is always a good price gauge). One standard product is colorful, chunky Indian glass. I usually can buy a tube of these beads for dollar, but Sarapaan was selling theirs for 25 cents per bead. I didn't feel any better about Sarapaan's pricing policy when the clerk told me that one of the discounted strands I was buying had less of a discount if I bought more of them (I had two). I decided to buy only one strand because I refused to deal with the annoying—and confusing—policy.
The Wellesley Sarapaan store is located at 265 Washington St. Wellesley, MA (just across from Whole Foods); Take the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Line to Wellesley Hills…or ride a bike!
While I am still convinced that nothing compares to my hometown's former bead paradise, I am assured that Boston is a great resource—you just have to visit several stores to get a good variety. With a store in Wellesley there's no excuse to not explore bead stores, especially if you haven't already. If you've never beaded before, take a class (all of these bead stores offer some), ask a friend (or me) or check out http://www.beadage.net.