“Beautifully restored antique display cases, beaded jewelry, vintage hats, beaded bags, and artist-created mannequins adorn the shop. Beaded crystals and beady-eyed fairies dangle from an oak branch hanging from the ceiling in the back of the store, along with custom-built tables holding loose beads and findings. Eclectic music plays in the background, while the walls shamelessly flaunt floor-to-ceiling strands of beads that are hung by category. Fandangle even hosts a smaller table just for their ‘littlest beaders.’” – Bead Design Studio Magazine, June 2012 issue
It was pure coincidence that Melanie and I got together just as Bead Design Studio Magazine was featuring Fandangle Bead Store in a Special Feature for their June 2012 issue. When we met last Friday, she had just received her copy of the magazine, and happily shared the article with me, which was very well written by Ms. Noelle A. DeMarco. But that didn’t stop me from asking all of my interview questions, then traipsing around shooting the wonderfully shiny beads, pendants and jewelry makings that are crammed into every nook and cranny in the shop. As someone who loves color, shiny things, and letting my imagination run wild with the possibilities, I honestly believe I could have stayed in there all day.
But let’s get to business, shall we? Meet Melanie Bentley, owner of Fandangle Bead Store:
APP: So, tell me how Fandangle began. Have you always been at this location?
I started Fandangle eight years ago, after a negative experience at a local bead store. After my experience there, I really felt like there needed to be more bead stores in the area, to provide more options. I spoke with a student in one of my Precious Metal Clay classes, who referred me to a consultant in Maine who teaches 3 day workshops for people exactly in her position. When I called the consultant, he had unfortunately filled the only class he was planning on teaching that year, being held that very weekend. When I mentioned my disappointment, he asked if I could be in Maine the next day, and if so, he would fit me into the workshop. So I flew up, and he spent the whole 3 days trying to talk all of us out of opening bead stores. I flew back from Maine on Monday, and signed the lease to the store on Tuesday. I was in that space for about five years, which was only two doors down from our present location, but much smaller, so three years ago we moved from there to here and expanded to basically overflowing this space.
APP: Tell me about what drew you to beading specifically. When did you realize that owning your own store was what you wanted to do?
FBS: I’ve been a clay artist for twenty years. I was a precious metal clay teacher at the Visual Arts Center, selling pieces to galleries and at shows. Opening the store gave me the opportunity to consolidate all of those interests into one place – I can teach here, while selling the pieces I make alongside the beads I love too.
APP: What do you love most about what you do?
FBS: The people I’ve met are definitely the best. I didn’t always fit in before I started the store, but I had sort of a “Field of Dreams” epiphany – you know, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ and I started meeting a lot of people who were like me and who opened me up to more beading options, like fiber, quilting, and weaving.
APP: Do you have a favorite bead or type of bead?
FBS: I’m sort of a magpie in that anything shiny or beautiful attracts my eye, but I’d probably say my favorites are the unusual, organic, or natural pieces.
APP: What made you want to start teaching classes in the store?
FBS: I’ve been teaching for over ten years – from the Montessori School to the Hand Workshop (now the Visual Arts Center) and the VMFA among others. When I opened the store, I definitely wanted to continue that. I like to help people find their creative instincts and potential (everyone’s got it!). I teach the technique so the windows of creativity fly open.
APP: What are your big-picture goals for your business?
FBS: While we aren’t planning on going anywhere (EVER again – can you imagine boxing up, labeling, moving, unboxing, and hanging all these beads… AGAIN?) – I’ve started making my own line of designer pendants that are cast in pewter, and have them for sale in the store as well. I’d also love to see the classes grow – they’ve doubled in the last year – we’re currently up to 30-50 people in each class!
APP: What do you wish people knew about beading and jewelry making?
FBS: Oh, how little experience is needed, and how it really is for all classes, genders, and ages, from kids to elderly! We get special groups in the store for classes or for group outings – Red Hat Society, transgender groups, bridal parties, girls’ night out – really anyone can come and enjoy! We have a huge variety of classes, and like to help people make connections with each other and others in the beading community.
APP: Who could benefit most from your products and classes?
FBS: While our doors are wide open to everyone, adults are our target market. We don’t have any plastic or cheaply made pieces in the store. We like to create an environment where adults can come to create and exhale, to find a place with other adults to unwind. In the fall/winter months, we like to have a “Ladies’ Bead Night Out” where women can come and bring their personal projects just to sit back and work with other women, for adult conversation and a quiet place to work.
APP: What has been your proudest moment at Fandangle so far?
FBS: I actually received a MUSE award from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for Creativity in Business a few years ago. That was a pretty proud moment for me.
APP: Do you have a memorable event or client you’d like to share?
FBS: Jane Stark is a model success story: she started taking basic classes in the store, excelled in those classes, began making her own jewelry and has gone on to create her own company selling jewelry. Jane’s company is called Three Beading Hearts, and a portion of each sale goes to the American Heart Association to help fight heart disease. I love to encourage people to do well, not to sell themselves short, and to learn from mistakes I’ve made in my own business.
APP: I want to make sure my readers know exactly what it is you offer – can you give me your “elevator speech?”
FBS: Our focus is community, classes, and consultation. First and foremost our goal is to teach basic technique, then inspire and nurture the inborn creativity I believe everyone has. It typically only takes one or two classes to inspire that creativity. If you focus on the process, the product will come. Solid technique, then inspiration. And Beads! (Oh yes, lots of beads.)
APP: Is there anything else I should be sure my readers know about your business?
FBS: We’re closed on Sunday!
Fandangle Bead Store is open Monday – Friday, 10am – 5:30pm, and Saturday, 10am – 5pm.
Visit them at 3022 Stony Point Road Richmond, VA 23235.
Call Melanie at 327-9992, or find the class schedule online at www.fandanglebeadstore.com.