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         ||   P.O. Box 356  ~  Browns Valley, CA 95918  ~  Tel: (530) 743-1339   ||   

Bead Shopping in New York 2005

OK, so going to the factories in Europe are out of the question, and traveling to Paris, France for the week to buy beads seems a little over the top for you; so consider the East coast, and in particular New York, and Providence, Rhode Island for your shopping spree.

If you’re flying in, start in New York City, and if you have time, catch the train to Providence. If you don’t have time, New York will be just fine.

The bead district is basically 36th Ave. If you flew in, you’ll be staying in a hotel, and will be riding the subway in to town. You will get off at Grand Central Station, or if you are staying on Long Island, you will get off at Penn Station. Either way, you are just a few short blocks to the bead and garment district.

Almost immediately you will find retail bead shops such as Toho Shoji, and The Bead Shop of New York. These shops are just like your typical bead shop back home.

Continue up 38th Ave, and you will find M & J Trim, a huge button, notion and trim shop, with thousands of square feet of retail and wholesale space filled with goodies. If that’s what you are looking for, plan on spending several hours there.

Just across the street, on the other side, the first importer you will come across is Margola. They are an old Czech glass bead importer, and there you will find small bins of old (not vintage) beads for sale. They will be loose. Then there are bundles of new Czech pressed beads and fire polish hanging on the wall, available by the strand and by the ¼ or ½ mass. They sell wholesale to the public, but there is a discount for quantity, again available to anyone. With your tax I.D. you can avoid paying the sales tax. They also sell plastic beads, rocailles and rhinestones.

Just across the street, and a few doors down, you will find Elliot, Greene & Co, Inc., another old Czech glass bead importer. You have to ring the bell to be let in, and usually need an appointment to get in, or a referral by another business involved in the trade. Lots of sequins and rhinestones here, and rocaille seed beads. Elliot Greene was probably the first importer to carry 13/0 charlottes, and still does today. Old man Greene does not run the business anymore, he sold to Alan Shaw several years ago, but according to people who know, nothing has changed.

A couple doors down from Elliot Greene is Elvee Rosenberg, another old time Czech and German glass bead importer. From the street if you look up you can see 3 or 4 floors of windows filled with dusty old boxes that contain beads and rhinestones and trim and who knows what else, just waiting for you to discover.

Crossing the street once again you come to York Novelties, another old Czech importer from the 1930’s. Old man Soloman Brookstein started working for Elliot Greene as an errand boy back then, met his wife who also worked for Elliot Greene, and purchased his first $400 worth of beads from Greene and sold it to one customer. According to Marti Brookstein, Solomon’s son, who took over York Novelties in the seventies when Soloman retired, they still haven’t been paid for that first sale! Soloman purchased the building in 1932 during the depression, and it is still owned to this day by the family. Soloman died in 1973, Marti retired in the nineties, and his son Perry now runs York Novelties. The ground floor is basically the showroom, and like Margola, York Novelties sells wholesale to the public. Most items are available to be purchased in the showroom, but some bulk items like charlottes and wood beads are on the second floor. In the old days, the vintage beads were stashed in the basement, and you were given gloves and a shovel to go down there…the gloves because of the dirt, and the shovel because of the rats. Perry has since cleaned up all that, and now it’s relatively boring down there…just beads. (Yeah, right!)
Marti still has an office on the second floor, next to Perry, probably to keep an eye on him, but just as probably to get away from his wife, and to fight off retirement boredom.
Marti used to take Perry to Czechoslovakia back in the 1950’s and 60’s to buy beads, when the country was communist, and after the Jablonex salesmen left New York on their sales runs to York Novelties, Marti would be visited by FBI agents to find out what the commies wanted. (It has been documented elsewhere that during the cold war Jablonex salesmen were sometimes a front for Czech and KGB agents to come to the west on spy missions.)

Which brings us to the 3rd floor of York Novelties’ building – the offices and showroom of Bijou de Boheme, aka Jablonex. Here you can look at and maybe place orders directly with the factories in Czech Republic. I say that because although you can look at the sample cards of all the rocailles made by Ornela and distributed by Jablonex, you cannot actually buy any. So why they even bother to show them is a mystery to me.

Just off 36th Ave by one block, on 37th Ave, is another warehouse worth visiting. It is a 10 story high rise owned by Carl, an amazing man who began in the bead business when he was 16. He is still in the business at 74, but the 10-story building that used to be all beads and stuff has been consolidated down to one story, the second floor. It is a maze of boxes, piled 3 ft high, with trails leading from room to room. Occasionally an avalanche will occur behind you as you move boxes to make your own trail into a corner. Carl has glass beads, crystal beads, plastic beads, metal beads, rhinestones, flat backs, chain, sequins, rivoli’s, cabochons, ornaments, stuff you didn’t know you needed or wanted, and its all old and vintage. Definitely plan on spending the day. And if you play chess, it may take longer. Oh, and by the way, Carl loves puppies!
Everything is by weight, and it’s cheap. Carl’s business name is CJS, and you will need a referral to get in. Good luck! Oh yeah… every once in a while someone talks about an old warehouse in New York City that they found wonderful stuff in… well, this is that warehouse. It really does exist.

There are many other places to go see, some you will just stumble across, most you will be referred to by the place you just left. You must just ask….”where do you suggest I go to find…….? “ Usually they will then call that business and let them know you are coming over.
One such place is Metalliferous, owned by a great guy, Anthony. He specializes in metal findings and filigree, but has tools, lapidary equipment, beads and lots of other stuff.

If you are still looking for other things, such as crystal, or vintage, head out to Farmingdale, Long Island, to a bead store called The Bead Market. The sales manager is Franklin, and if you’re nice, he might let you into his warehouse out back. The warehouse is Harmon Imports. He has a huge selection of Swarovski crystal, and an enormous selection of vintage glass from Austria and Germany. He has a formula you must follow to purchase vintage…2/3 new and 1/3 vintage.

Finally, if you’re through with New York, and the subway, and the people, and the food (oh my god…the food!) then maybe you are ready for Providence, Rhode Island, and the warehouses there.

Just outside of Providence proper is a business hardly anyone knows called Waliga Imports. This is a wonderland of beads, crystals, trim, chain, vintage, and contempary, old, unusual, you name it. It is large, maybe 10,000 sq. feet, stuffed full of things you must have. They open crates all the time, and new discoveries are made that have been hidden for decades. Waliga Imports is a must.

Next is a huge warehouse in Providence called Wolf E. Myrow. After you investigate the huge ground level floor space, you are led down into the basement, and are made aware of the yellow line you must locate so as to be able to find your way out when you are forced to leave by hunger many hours later. This place is stuffed full of everything you can imagine. Their swarovski crystal cage is large, and well stocked. To see all the lovely crystal you must get past the woman guarding the cage. Be nice to her!

Also in Providence is Pontiac Treasures, the closeout warehouse for John F. Allen, another old time Czech and German glass bead importer.

And finally, E.H. Ashley is in Providence. They carry Swarovski crystal and contempory German glass beads.

All right now, you are armed with enough information to go out there and shop til you drop! Bring cash, travelers checks, checks, and credit cards ready to go spend! The warehouses in New York will sell wholesale to the public, but in Providence you will need your tax I.D. or resale certificate to get in and buy.

Have fun!


Wild Things Beads  ~  P.O. Box 356  ~  Browns Valley, CA 95918  ~  Tel: (530) 743-1339

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