Thursday, November 20, 2014

End of an Era.

As a third generation " Bead Man" , like in any family business, one wants to make the past generations Proud. Since I walked through the YORK doors post-university, legacy and commitment have been important. There have been many changes :  The Wall came down, 9/11, and the explosion of the Internet. Amongst all these changes and the fact that I was just a business major, not a jeweler or artist or collector by any means, I felt the need to reinvent myself, and the company.

I am very awestruck reading bead history books. Many sample cards that have been published in print are from companies that no longer exist. The Great Depression alone wiped out a generation of different bead families. World War II brought new opportunities and one was the growth of York Novelty Import, which had been established several years earlier on December 9, 1924.

It saddens me to tell you that York Novelty Import, Inc. and will be closing shortly. One of our staff members, Kelly Stevenson, has been with us for 29 years. Like myself, he has seen the changes in the garment/accessory district from its most bustling to today where hotels and coffee shops dominate the atmosphere.

When you have been in business this long, "family" offers different meanings. The York family is our customers who had us ear-marked as a destination, the artists and Jewelry designers we have been so fortunate to work with and see flourish, and the faces that have walked through our door daily. It is our employees, who, on average, have been with us for over fifteen years. Marjorie and Mary greeting you at the door, Kumar first too arrive, and Alfred sending you our newsletters. I want to thank them for their service, hard work, and dedication.

This Thanksgiving week, in honor of our ninetieth anniversary we are welcoming world renowned beading artist Helena Tang Lim with old-time York customers like Marg Yama and Jennifer Chasalow VanBenschoten in attendance. As much as it has been about the beads and finances, it's nice to know that York will end as it began, with family.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

90th Year is really or legally York Novelty Import, Inc. We were Establish Dec 9, 1924 by Boris Weisman and Sol Bookstein. I started coming here as a Child, putting wood beads in a bag ,  packaging for Woolworth. I was fed Twinkies by the workers, I loved coming Xmas time where we had our
own Christmas tree kit and ornaments which we used to sell. I have seen power tools, Yo-yo's and more come through this place, and as a teenager I got enthralled with the beauty and myths of African trade beads. There was something about those beads.

Dad used to ask me to quiz him about the different beads, like baseball card statistics , he knew the color numbers and origins. We were not just Czech Beads at the time, we sold West German and Japanese glass and plastic, shell and pearl from the Philippines and much more. We were always known for Czech Glass and was a distributor since post World War II.  One of the few vendors whom visited us and we them.

Getting Ready for our Ninetieth anniversary we thought we would put some beads on sale. Most cover the last two decades of Importing from Czech Republic,  from Gemstone Fire Polish to seed beads but a few hints of the popular items today like Aged Stripes, Spikes and Magnet Clasps. You can even strike a bargain on some gold plated beads. Hope you enjoy and take advantage of them and note the quality and history behind them.

Best Regards,


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Skyscraper to Skyscraper

A follow to my article, page 32 of the current August 2014 Bead and Button: 

 I mentioned jobbing. A popular term in the eighties, jobbing is comparable to out-sourcing. Jobbing is procuring an item that you did not import to satisfy customer demands. I imagine Amazon or Ebay can be considered a conduit to this phenomenon. In the 80's and prior, manufacturers just had neither the time nor Google desktop to find that missing bead or rhinestone.  The city was our own personal marketplace or year-round bead show. We imported more than just Czechoslovakian glass beads: we had merchandise from Taiwan, West Germany,  Japan, the Philippines , India as well as domestic items, many from Providence, Rhode Island. Having this collection, and being in a big city can bring you many other requests. "Do you have SS20 crystal AB Rhinestones, Kidney Ear Wire, or maybe a 12/0 Three Cut in Opaque Gray? Companies had beads outside their specialty stranded in boxes.

These were the days where we let our "fingers do the walking", Yellow Pages were like our Bibles and you could go to the Directory of each Skyscraper lobby in the garment district  and discover a specialty Importer.  Having a store front was Great, but that hinted at the term "retailer". If you worked on the Sixteenth floor, and were willing to brave the elevator situation, you could find that Swarovski dealer of choice.

Or if you picked up the phone you may have 100 mass of 3mm Black Fire Polish at your door step much quicker than UPS or JABLONEX could deliver. Even African Trade Beads were a phone call away in Harlem.

These Skyscrappers in the garment district were like personal department stores. There were whole floors  of beady merchandise hidden from the street level eyes, much more exclusive than your favorite URL.

I  have studied bead history books, and I've noticed many New York-based importers from the 1920's and pre-WWII credited for importing that trendy "bead of the moment". Yet after the depression and the war, all of these companies disappeared. A new crop of bead import company sprouted up during this time, of which York Beads is one.

But when i was a "kid" ( just out college), there were importer names such as Sheru Bead, Morris Berger, Di-Mar Imports, Elliot Greene, Wall Bead, Eric and K Gottfried, and Wepra, Ruben Bead. Many of these companies were never well know to the public, as were not retail store fronts, but they were the hidden treasure chests of the New York Skyline. Names with change, syllables and all, but thebeads will not.

On My last Visit to CJS, which is also on an UPPER floor not meant for the Public, I noticed this box of stones in envelopes. While I am not a stone person, i am a vintage Person, and i noticed that these packages marked "K.S. & co.", and "Made in Austria", both signs of Vintage. One Stamped N.Levy Corporation, another name I  have never heard of, and were out of Providence in the same box of Morris Berger goodies. I have always said that beads leave a trail: Memories, markings and for some, a maddening mining march!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Leaving a Beady Trail

                                  Leaving a Beady Trail


     I do not blog so much now. One of my last blogs was inspired by my talk at both the New York and New Jersey Bead Societies. Like my spontaneous Facebook posts, a thought hit me based on the times and what i am experiencing and there is a need to express them. These thoughts resulting from my latest bead society talks
made me realize i am living history. We all are, my story is only more interesting than another's if you are enamored by beads, which my readers are, so here is my latest bead babbles.

   Speaking about my 27 year post university history at Yorkbeads, not to mention my holiday and summer visits as a child, i realized that the change in economic landscape of the world and New York City has had a profound effect on the beads that we carry, discontinue or even deemed vintage. With that thought i wrote an article for bead and button magazine, August 2014, describing  my daily travels, insights and outlook toward the future. I am in a family business and my dad was the impetus of much of my "bead stylings".

  There is so much to say about my father, who often drove me to work. Most people never knew him ( he is 83 and still with us) as he had a partner who is also still with us, but was more the senior face of the store front. My dad managed his other assets, and the building we worked in, which he did sell a few years ago though left me a manageable lease. My dad  was my hero. He played and loved sports, was in the Korean war, withstood family problems and turbulent times but had a sense of history and a bead's place in time and fashion. Driving into work with dad, sitting with him early morning in his office, whatever the conversation, now seems so precious.

   My article is titled the "Politics of Beads". A strange title. The editor Stacy said i had a very mosaic yet compelling writing style. As a boy, and his journey to manhood, information and experience are picked up and digested in strange portions or patterns. Getting married, having a child changes your outlook some. Responsibility makes you think deeper, dive into areas you would not touch. Family politics, political landscape changes lead to economic adjustments. I look at my stock, or my life in beads, sometimes running across old stock items with a certain timeline of history. Beads are history, fragments left behind, they are my muse for story telling. We all have a story, with childhood memories and turbulent changes. Beads just happen to be part of mine.

(Drawing done by dad at this desk or mess of desk lol. Like Father like son)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Its a great time to be a consumer( That means YOU bead people)

     I live in New York City. We complain how expensive groceries are! Yet we now have Trader Joes, where you can save a bundle on milk products alone. The 99 cent slice of Pizza is back, as well as 99 cent stores and many affordable food carts.  You do not have to like it but the options we have are endless even if the aisle are not!!

Now with that in mind, imagine being a bead consumer these days. Yes, there are many beads stores but also on-line stores ,E bay and Etsy. One can buy beads in increments needed, would it be by gram or piece ,with  less need for those shoe boxes under your bed even though they definitely exist, which leads me to my point:  Can you remember it ever being a better time to be a consumer of beads?

Being primarily an importer of Czech Beads, how many times have i heard this last couple years YIKES "another new shape or another new color variety". Going back to the food theme above, you know how many times i have gone into a grocery store in NYC for potato chips and just been underwhelmed. While if i visit family say in North Carolina or Florida and see a WHOLE potato chip aisle with more brands and flavors than i can imagine i can get tingles ( no not Pringles). The fact that there are 1000 delica bead colors, 400 colors of superduos or hundred of varieties of thunder polish to fire polish cannot be a bad thing.

Yet being an importer comes with its own "Bells and Whistles".  We get to see the beads sometimes in their most primitive raw state. In plain opaque or transparent colors and we try to add flair to them. Really, as we are reminded sometimes we do not make anything but perhaps we provide the ignition to inspire creativity and opportunity. When i get to see finished work designers create perhaps adding the most appropriate metal finding or handiest bead stitch to some color combination, i at least think i created or facilitated that wonderful piece of jewelry.

I always loved the phrase the "applications are endless". There are many talented Jewelry designers and manufacturers of components that make this happen. Then there are the countless number of bead stores and such that go out of their way to share this talent, not to mention what is shared naturally with the artistic community as a whole. Lets remember beads do not grow on trees even though some wish they do, and appreciate the bead bounty we have now.