PEQUOT LAKES -- Tiny silver beads nestled in the carpet like grains of sand led to an area business that continues to grow 25 years later.
Jan Johnson, Silver Creek Traders owner, first saw the beads in a relative's carpet during a vacation to Albuquerque, N.M. The former homeowner strung the beads together for jewelry. It did not take long for an idea to form that meant Johnson could try putting the beads together herself. So instead of going into the vacuum, the liquid silver beads were harvested from the carpet. Johnson said she took many ounces of the liquid silver from the carpet and it was worth about $30 an ounce.
That was a start. The business grew from there. Johnson taught herself to make a few bracelets and in three months she left her job as a nurse at St. Joseph's Medical Center and started her own business.
The business now keeps five women busy nearly seven days a week. And Johnson said they still cannot keep up with demand.
Colorful beads fill containers in the bead work area at Silver Creek Traders in Pequot Lakes as a tiny bead is added to the growing bracelet.
"It's not hundreds of bracelets we do each year -- it's thousands," Johnson said at Silver Creek Traders gift store's log building in Pequot Lakes. "We built this building on the strength of our jewelry sales."
Johnson first started her store in the Jackpine Center before moving out to her own building. Silver Creek Traders expanded from the Pequot Lakes store, established in 1994, to build another log structure in Emily in 1998. Another expansion is under consideration.
In the meantime, the bead work is sold nationwide. There is a Web site and a catalog is in the works.
Now the beading ladies create unique necklaces and bracelets for shoppers while they wait. In fact the coffee bar at Silver Creek Traders in Pequot Lakes was created to have coffee available for waiting jewelry customers.
Completed beadwork is sold nationwide from the Pequot Lakes store with a popular variety currently being the guardian angel bracelets with a round disc-like guardian angel included with the beads. Five ladies work nearly seven days a week to create thousands of bracelets each year.
Five ladies string the beads and create more than 10,000 jewelry pieces each year. They work seven days a week and also offer to repair bracelets that people may mail to the shop. A bracelet with natural stones is likely to start at about $16.50. Orders come by phone and often by referral. One came when a bracelet was spotted in Illinois and the inquiry of its creation led back to Pequot Lakes.
They create charm bracelets, guardian angel bracelets, precious gem stones and crystals. The beads fill numerous round, shallow containers and two rows of tall glass jars in the small beading work area at Silver Creek Traders that is large enough for one person.
Betty Ehrhardt started the task of putting small beads on an even smaller filament of thread 10 years ago. Now she is more likely to put the beads together at Johnson's house than at the store.
"It's just nice to sit quietly by yourself and create," Ehrhardt said. "I like hand work so I enjoy it."
Ehrhardt said it took awhile to be able to finish off the bracelet, especially with customers at the store watching the action.
"The last knot that you do is the trick," Ehrhardt said.
Johnson said a couple more people will likely be trained this winter so the business can add inventory.
"Even when it wasn't cool we were stringing," Johnson said and laughed. "Now it's so popular it's hard to keep up."
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