By Flannery Joyce, Point Park News Service:
Joanne Yalch had been interested in starting her own business for several years until her husband John told her to make it a reality during a drive through Lawrenceville 10 years ago.
He said to quit talking about it and to start something, thinking it might be a type of restaurant or lounge.
What it became instead was a bead shop, a relatively unheard of operation in Pittsburgh at the time.
“My aim is to provide a friendly, comfortable atmosphere for all, no matter what skill level, to share in the camaraderie of beading,” Yalch, 60, said.
Her Crystal Bead Bazaar is now thriving. It offers thousands of different types of beaded jewelry for customers to buy or to create earrings, bracelets and necklaces at the store or in workshops. These are for her more advanced customers to build one-of-a-kind pieces.
She also sells her own creations in the shop, ranging from $10-$600 depending on the piece.
Yalch’s bead shop not only features the widest range of beads imaginable – including everything from metal beads to pearls – but it also offers books and magazines, along with every tool needed to make jewelry.
Customers can simply bring their ideas to the store and build whatever kinds of beaded jewelry they desire. Prices range from $10 to $100 depending on what they make and how much the material costs. They can also enroll in classes for $35 to $45 plus the price of materials.
Yalch’s path to success was unpaved. She didn’t go to college and had no idea how to start a business, so she took classes at Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
Like most new businesses, the Crystal Bead Bazaar was not an immediate success when it opened at 4521 Butler St. Business was slow, so she didn’t pay herself enough money in the beginning and had to rely on her husband’s income to pay the bills.
The turning point toward her success was when she started offering classes at the three-year mark.
“I saw a large rise in sells and in my income, and I started developing a good reputation in the neighborhood,” she said.
John Sirianni is a regular customer at Crystal Bead Bazaar, who loves coming to the shop for many reasons.
“It’s close by for me to get here; I love Joanne, and I consider her a great friend now,” he said. “Her store has a wide variety of different kinds of beads to pick from, plus the people here are so friendly.”
Pat Rutkowski is another regular customer at the shop. When Rutkowski is at the shop she usually just makes simple bracelets, earrings and necklaces. Recently she was making a necklace out of Venetian and lampwork beads for $15.
“There are all different kinds of beads here, and it’s a good place to come get ideas for things to make,” she said. “Plus Joanne just has the best stuff.”
Lori Sisson attends classes at the shop where she usually creates earrings, necklaces and bracelets that cost about $25.
“I also like that you can actually see everything in person when you come in, unlike trying to buy some beads online where you can’t see what you’re getting until it’s too late,” she said.
Roya Kovsari has only been working for Yalch for about a month, but she said she thinks Yalch does a great good at running the shop.
“She is very knowledgeable about the bead world and what her customers want. It is a testament to her success of turning her dream into a business,” she said.
Yalch said she believes her business is successful because she has the insight into what her customers want.
“I have a lot of different things to offer them when they come in to make something,” she said.