We talked to: Tejas Beads
Hi, Chris! Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your business, and why you chose downtown Northampton as a location?
I grew up in Turners Falls, MA, and have always loved Western MA. I spent the last 12 years living in Texas and traveling the world doing subsurface geology work in the petroleum industry. My wife Kelly was born in NY, but grew up in Panama, then returned to the US at age 14. When we got together, we were both living in Houston, though I was still doing petroleum geology work and Kelly was traveling the country in a Chevy Express work van full of gemstone beads that she would set up at trade shows. She would frequently travel the Midwest covering gem shows from Texas to Louisiana, Chicago, Colorado, and New Mexico and everywhere in between. One year, Kelly did 43 trade shows around the Midwest, driving as far as California.
Then, when Covid hit, things dramatically changed. I knew it was only a matter of time before I lost my job, as my company was sliding quickly. Trade shows had all been canceled, and we were just sitting there waiting to see what might happen. We started organizing beads in our leased space in Houston, learned how to take product photos, and built a website. We launched the website in June of 2020, and it just took off—we started selling a ton of beads and focused our time and energy on the business and website. Kelly decided not to return to shows, and I decided to not look for other work because the potential of the bead business looked increasingly profitable every day.
In 2022, we had a baby boy and agreed that we didn’t want to raise him in the city, so we decided to move our family and business to Western, MA. This felt like the right place to be for many reasons, including better weather, being close to nature spots without a million people around, and just missing this area. So we loaded up two 18-wheelers and moved our entire home and operation to Easthampton initially. We hired some people and got our website ordering process back up and running. We initially thought that we could take it easy for a couple of years and just focus on the online business, but when the Pearl Street location became available in Northampton, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar store.
Northampton is a great place to have a store, and there’s really nothing quite like our business in the area, whereas in Texas, there were many bead stores. We are truly the first sizable bead store offering a wide range of gemstone beads, pendants, silver, and jewelry-making supplies in the area. We also feel like the brick-and-mortar store helps to legitimize the online business—having both allows us to do so much more than just one or the other. People appreciate being able to come in and see our stones and other items in real life, and check out the array of unique offerings we have on display. We even have pendants that Kelly designs, along with sterling rings (the teenagers especially love them), earrings, and necklaces. We also carry findings, which are little charms, that people really enjoy.
Also, Kelly really appreciates having day-to-day interactions with folks coming in to browse and shop. She’s an excellent salesperson!
What are some challenges you endured, and what are some positive things that you’ve learned/that have come out of the past three years?
Just getting the store open and set up with furniture was challenging. You can’t find anyone to make high-quality, unique stuff without paying a fortune. So we ordered some shelving from Amazon, and then I started building rustic burned tables in our garage back in February.
Staffing is definitely a challenge, and we encountered some bumps along the way in that department. We offer competitive pay and a great working environment, but as seems to be the norm these days, finding a solid team can take a lot of work. Thankfully right now, we’ve secured a great group that is both hard-working and reliable, and we really appreciate their efforts and commitment.
What are some exciting things coming up for the store?
We’ve been getting requests for classes, so we’re currently working on getting casters set up so we can roll displays out of the way and make space for groups and instructors to come in a couple of times per week. Trade shows aren’t really happening in the same way they were pre-Covid, but perhaps in the future that will be an area for us to return to.
As business owners, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
We recently bought a boat, so we go out a few times a week and take our son Aaron. He loves the beach and getting to be the boat driver. We also love having campfires and cookouts in the backyard and look forward to skiing in the winter months.
And finally... What’s your favorite summer food and/or beverage?
Kelly really likes exotic fruits like Rambutan, lychee, and papaya. We grill a lot of steaks, accompanied by fresh local farm stand produce that we get on Sunday drives up Rt 47. We love how abundant the farm stands are in this area—it is something we really enjoy now that we’re living in Western MA.