Toronto bead stores are many. They are dotted throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs. However, I actually think there is room for a few more specialized bead stores, catering to better quality and unique findings. The population of this city is sophisticated, well read and up to date with fashion. We have some very creative and talented citizens. And in many artistic industries, Toronto has produced some world class artists, from fashion to film, to fine arts. Although Toronto bead stores are numerous, and they’re doing a good job, I’ve seen much better stores in other parts, where the population is smaller, and in my view, places where people are not necessarily more artistic. Toronto offers great opportunities for a brave and creative, would be, bead store owner.
There is a famous enclave of bead stores along Queen Street, west of Spadina. Arton Beads Craft is wonderful, packed full, price competitive and have been there for as long as Torontonians can remember. They’re the first to be there and Alice, the owner, is very kind, highly educated, artistic and passionate about her work and her low prices, of course. Arton Beads Craft waited a few years for her neighbour’s lease to expire and took over next door to open a new concept store. It carries semi-precious stones, sterling silver and cubic zirconia. Arton Beads Craft started out carrying inexpensive base metal findings and buttons, with occasional crystals.
Across the street from her is the nemesis store, Bling Bling. It is a very spacious place by comparison, and they’re rapidly moving up the competition by directly importing their own pearls and stones. Prices for these are low. There are a few more bead stores in that area with similar merchandise, with focus on lower prices. The Crystal Bead Shop, like it’s name suggests, focuses on crystals. Fancy Gems and Accessories has some finished jewellery as well as components. They are situated along Queen Street within 2 blocks of one another.
The only downtown Toronto Bead Store in that enclave that is catering to a different market is The Beadery. I really like the decor of that store. It is packed with merchandise, much of which is imported from the Philippines and China. The presentation is different and a lot of thought has gone into merchandising it. The prices are a lot higher than the other stores, though I believe they offer 30% wholesale discount if you purchase over $500.
It is rumoured that The Sassy Bead Co has recently closed their Toronto store. The head office is in Ottawa and there are a few locations there. They focus on cheap and cheerful beads. They like to buy end lots from the basements of novelty and bead wholesalers in New York, things which have not seen the light of day for many years. Those beads are cheap, bought by the pound, but unique and no longer in production. They had done well for themselves for a long time on high margins. However, I think it takes more to be a successful when there is so much competition amongst Toronto Bead Stores.
The staff at Bead FX is wonderful. Their store front, located in Scarborough, is smaller than most of their competitors. However, they do most of their business online. They have a strong presence in Czech beads and seed beads. Their staff are artistic, with great colour sense, and all make jewellery. They have many classes and a special equipment for glass bead making classes.
The Bead Junction is located in the Junction part of Toronto, around Queen and Roncesvalles area. It is nicely kept and the ladies at the store hold many classes. They’re very strong in seed beads. There are a few more Toronto Bead Stores that do largely online sales. They also exhibit at the Toronto Bead Oasis Show. It’s a worthwhile venue to visit, however, to get a more complete flavour of what they offer, it is always best to visit the stores. If you don’t see something you are looking for, it is very important to ask. They may not have thought about bringing it in because they believe they do not have a market for it. But if you ask, you might just get it. Beading is a very interesting and flexible business. I have a strong feeling that we’re just at the cusp of a great leap for Toronto Bead Stores.