Meet Janie and Russell Carter
Russell and Janie Carter
For 27 years Janie and Russell Carter owned a furniture store in St. Charles, Missouri, just over 20 miles from St. Louis. Their specialization was refurbishing used furniture, making what's old new again. Their store is a remodeled home from the early 1900s in the Historic Frenchtowne area of St. Charles. A house with such personality and charm was the perfect complement to their new line of work, 2nd Street Beads.
Janie and Russell took their time and did their research to make sure that when they opened their shop, it would be successful. They traveled to scout other bead shops for ideas of how to lay out their store. Their main goals when visiting bead shops were to see how products were displayed, how customers were treated and what types of education were offered. They examined the layouts of products and discussed what type of set-up would work best for their storefront.
One of the biggest challenges was deciding what they wanted their niche to be. In our technological age, beaders can shop online, and with numerous bead stores or craft chains available, they knew they needed to set their store apart from the rest.
After much deliberation and about a year of research, Janie and Russell were ready. They made a few renovations to their charming old furniture shop and started stocking up on jewelry-making basics including findings, Swarovski crystals, gemstone beads, chain and focal components. ''Set-up is key!'' says Janie. ''Bead shops can be overwhelming with wall-to-wall beads; there's a lot to absorb.''
When you enter 2nd Street Beads, the first thing you see are the Swarovski crystals--they jump right out at you. Strategically placed lights shine down at different angles, creating the most magnificent sparkle that beckons the shopper into the store. Some of their beautifully refurbished furniture is still on display, offering an amazing presentation for their class offerings and other beading products.
''Once the WOW! calms down,'' says Janie, ''we ask our guests about their interests, explain how the tray system works, then walk them through the store--chit-chatting for a bit, then let them shop. We always remain available for questions.'' This approachable style has earned the Carters a loyal customer base. Customers come from outlying areas, and some of their ''regulars'' come from as far away as Alaska, returning faithfully when they are in the area.
And they found their niche. In addition to carrying the largest selection of fire-polished glass and plated metal findings in the area, 2nd Street Beads offers Saturday classes that bring the local beading community together. Janie enjoys teaching the classes, and seeing how creative her customers can be. She teaches a new technique, but allows her students to choose their own materials. ''People choose amazing varieties, everyone is different.''
Opening a bead shop has been a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Janie reminds those thinking of opening a bead shop to keep it realistic, as she quickly learned, ''You don't get to sit and make jewelry all day long--beadwork happens after shop hours.'' Janie and Russell say that it helped knowing something about business, from their previous shop. But overall, 2nd Street Beads has turned into a huge success. And Janie and Russell are thrilled with the outcome.
Special Promotions/MarketingTo keep customers coming in the door, the Carters use several promotional strategies, but one of their biggest hits is the variety of classes they offer. They are a great way to keep people coming back week after week. In the classes, ''strangers become classmates--people here aren't afraid to talk to each other. You can bounce ideas off each other in a very creative environment.'' Janie suggests attending Bead and Button shows and taking as many classes as possible. She also sticks to new techniques in her classes, which is why she places such a high importance on ongoing education.
Janie also makes sure to stay ahead of her customers' wants and needs. When she receives her monthly bead magazines, she searches for projects. Then she checks her inventory for similar products, and works on the designs. When she runs into a technique she's unfamiliar with or she needs more inspiration, Janie turns to Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' website. There she finds how-to videos, detailed instructions and thousands of design ideas. She can even stock up on products for the new project. When her customers come looking for items to make the designs in their favorite bead magazines, Janie has a sample, some suggested products and firsthand experience making the project. She's ready to answer any questions and help her customers get started making their own pieces.
Janie and Russell also advertise in beading magazines, and they suggest starting there. A short local TV ad has been a great success as well. Their advertisements bring in people from nearby St. Louis and all the surrounding areas. Another fun promotional event is the anniversary celebration the shop has every July. This is their way to say ''we're happy to be a bead shop'' and share that happiness with their loyal customers.
Janie and Russell have been part of the Platinum Partners group for 4 years. To qualify for Platinum Partner status, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads customers must maintain a minimum of $3000 of purchases in a current 12 month time frame (only $250.00 per month). Janie loves the perks. ''Being a Platinum Partner has its benefits! We get a significant discount every time we place an order regardless of the size, plus, we get a heads up on the new products Fire Mountain Gems and Beads introduces.''
The benefits include an exclusive Platinum customer service representative, buying at the 200+ price level whether you order one item or hundreds, upgraded postal delivery on catalogs, special emails and more. ''The Platinum reps know what we like and help guide our buying decisions,'' says Janie, ''they do a great job and it helps!''
Owning a Bead Shop
In the five years since opening, 2nd Street Beads has certainly come into its own. ''We just keep a well stocked bead shop,'' Janie says modestly. In reality, hard work, a hunger for learning and a love for beading have brought Janie and Russell to where they are today.
We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "2nd Street Beads," featured in the December 7, 2010 newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.
"I'm a customer of Second Street Beads and it's true that it is a really nice store. There is a comfortable feeling when you walk in the door and the people are very friendly and helpful. Since I'm a regular customer of on-line bead stores I don't get into the actual shops very often but when I do this is one of my favorites."
"I truly enjoyed the article about the 2nd Street Beads shop. I know in our struggling economy, the bead shops must also be struggling, but it's nice to see how a couple has made beading their success story."
"This was a wonderfully inspiring article. Thanks for the info."
"Just loved the story on "2nd Street Beads" as I have always wanted my own bead shop but could never afford it. It's so nice to see someone doing something they "love". Great story! Thanks again."
"Read the whole thing-thanks!"
"Excellent article! Thank you!"
"Just a wonderful article!"
"Great story, very inspiring! I am a beginner in the beading world and would love to get full force into it. Stories like that help a lot, because at this point I do not really know where to start. I made some jewelry, even opened an online store, but now I am kind of stuck. I need tips on how to set up my workplace, how to choose correct beads and everything else that would help with my passion. I already had a problem with choosing correct beads, bought a bunch of stuff for a project, but they had different size holes in them =(, so that didn't work. I am not giving up though, I am trying to figure out what I did wrong and correct it.
Maybe one day I will be a member of FIRE MOUNTAIN GEMS PLATINUM CLUB too =) "
"It was so much fun to read the article on 2nd Street Beads. I have for many years wanted to open a bead store. I especially enjoy the fact that I would already have a dependable resource for everything beads. I have done much of the research. I know what type of store I would like to have. I would so enjoy the educational component as 2nd Street Beads has done. It sounds like such an interesting way of earning a living. It is ever-changing and always exciting. I have nothing but time now that I have retired. If I had nothing but money, I would be writing you this note from my shop. This was a really fun article. I would have enjoyed seeing more of the layout."