SPOTLIGHT ON ... STORE
Our featured online bead store for this month is Byzantium
Byzantium is a very special bead store...a bead store with a soul. Started in 1985 by Libby Gregory, it started out in small 100 year old building near the Ohio State University campus. Libby put a doorway thru to her other business next door, The King Avenue Coffeehouse, the first coffeehouse in Columbus and a vegetarian restaurant to boot. In the early days, we drank a lot of delicious hazelnut coffee. We made a lot of contacts with African Traders, so we had a lot of trade beads and other unusual and interesting ethnic beads to sell, along with Czech glass, lots of seed beads for our Native American customers, gemstone beads and whatever we liked. Libby started out with one case of beads!
The Bead Society of Central Ohio was born in this space, too, and we had Peter Francis Jr. (one of the well known bead researchers) come to Byzantium to help us set up our bead society. He also gave bead identification workshops. Also born in this space was one of the earliest of bead art shows in the country... The OHIO BEAD ART COMPETITION. We would judge the art from our customers and anyone from Ohio who wanted to enter; we even had a special children's
division. The winners of the competition were then shown in an art show at the King Avenue Coffee house.
Unfortunately, on February 1st, 1991 Libby and another Byzantium staff member Shelley Stambaugh were killed in a plane crash in Los Angeles on a research and buying expedition. Their next stop would have been for the Tucson Show if they had not passed on. The staff at home was devastated, but all wanted the store to continue on if possible.
That is where I came in. I'm Joyce Griffiths, and I had moved from Colorado to Columbus to go to graduate school. I moved to Ohio the same month Libby opened Byzantium. I had been a beader for many years, and was searching Columbus for interesting places when I found Byzantium. It was the first bead store I had seen in many years and I was very excited to find it. I helped with the founding of the Bead Society and was the secretary for many years. When Libby died, I felt it was my duty to step in and help with the store, since I had some managerial experience. I ran the store for about 2 years, and then was able to buy it.
We have grown from 1000 square feet to 4200 square feet, as we moved to a new location in the Short North Arts District in 2000. We are still in an old building with a lot of character. Our bead and finding selection has also grown, but we never can forget our roots and so still carry all the old trade beads, other ancient and collectible beads, other ethnic beads as well as a wonderful selection of the kinds of things you find in the more modern stores (including Soft Flex® products). We focus on quality and value. We also base our business on the very strong ethics instilled in us by our founder, Libby. Our staff gets health insurance, paid vacations, holidays and sick days, as well as a pension plan. We set our prices as low as we can so we can stay in business, take care of our staff and make a profit, too, so we don't have constant sales. Our staff has all been with us for at least 7 years (our most senior staff member has been with us for 14 years! And are very bead savvy and able to help you with your beading needs. We believe in old fashioned customer service and would prefer to interact face to face, so we do not do internet sales. We love people who love the beads and need to touch and feel them. We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary next year!
We also have a nice selection of classes to teach you the tricks of the trade. We hand pick our gemstones so we get the best and you will often find many items at Byzantium you won't find anywhere else. We also carry beautiful sterling silver and gemstone jewelry, antique ethnic jewelry, ethnic art, pottery, incense, textiles, baskets and other items for inspiration and shopping fun.
We're proud to be Central Ohio's oldest and biggest (and we think) best bead store!
Please come and visit us if you are in the Columbus area!
1088 N. High St
Columbus, Ohio 43201
614 291-3130 toll free 888-291-3130
Find a bead store near you!