“Beads are as old as mankind himself,” says Glenn Vincent, CEO of Shipwreck Beads in Lacey. “Every single excavation that’s ever been excavated has revealed beads. The original wheel was a bead.”
Possible slight exaggerations and fantastic puns aside – “May the bead be with you,” “Don’t worry, bead happy,” and “Have a beadiful day” were just three Glenn threw out with a warm laugh during this reporter’s recent visit to the store – Shipwreck Beads truly does offer the world’s largest selection of beads under one retail roof.
Opened by Glenn’s parents in 1969 and originally called “Shipwreck,” the space held a nautical-themed antique store that also carried a few beads. The original owners sold the company to their children – Glenn and his two sisters – in 1982, and beads quickly became the star, inspiring the name change.
The shop has grown and changed locations four times. Today’s Shipwreck Beads is a sight to behold.
Miles upon miles of beads are meticulously, beautifully displayed in the massive, 22,000-square foot showroom. Anyone who crafts, sews, or creates any type of adorned item must visit Shipwreck Beads to believe it.
“We do well,” Glenn says of the destination store that attracts customers in person and online from across the world. “This is an amazing experiment in insanity.”
Sixty percent of the company’s business comes from mail orders, via its extensive website and 1,000-page full-color glossy catalog – both created in-house. Between 200 and 400 orders ship worldwide every day.
“Our first web page went up right after Al Gore invented the web,” Glenn says, laughing. “We just had two pages of trade beads, and that was a start.”
Customers who sign up for Shipwreck Beads’ newsletter are eligible for one of five weekly drawings for $100 gift cards.
Shipwreck Beads stocks over 17 billion beads. Yes, 17 billion. A powerful computer database and detailed inventory system keeps everything running smoothly.
Every bead sold has a part number and through computer tracking, Shipwreck Beads knows exactly how many beads of any particular style it’s sold over the past decade.
“We’re at 53,000 part numbers at this point,” says Glenn. “ There are over 137,000 locations of product in this company. On the showroom floor, there are about 97,000 locations.”
“There’s no place on the planet like Shipwreck Beads,” says Glenn. “No presentation at all that even comes close. And there are tens of millions of beads that we could order right now. I could fill up every building in this business park.”
With such a vast selection, how do Glenn and his team choose which beads to stock? “Years and years and years of experience,” he says. “It’s knowing the market, what people like. Colors and trends are critical.”
The range of Shipwreck Beads’ inventory is too gigantic to list – wander the aisles, grab the catalog, or dive into the website to see it all – but they do carry nearly every type of bead you can imagine, including Czech glass beads, seed beads, fire polished glass beads, gemstones, Swarovski cut crystals, sterling silver, and more.
They also carry pendants, jewelry-making tools and supplies, books on beading, chains, and jewelry displays. The list goes on and on.
For those new to beading or looking for inspiration for new projects, Shipwreck Beads offers an array of in-store classes in beading, knotting, braiding, and more.
Customer service is king at Shipwreck Beads. The company offers its 56 full-time employees financial incentives, from sales people to “pickers,” the folks who roam the massive showroom floor fulfilling online and catalog orders, before they items are packaged and shipped from one of the two cavernous “back room” areas of Shipwreck Beads.
“My joys come from seeing the success of the people who work here,” says Glenn. “When someone can buy a home, it literally brings tears to my eyes.”
Glenn stresses that Shipwreck Beads speaks for itself. “You’ll see it in the aisles, in the presentation. You’ll see it in the attitude of the people who are here. We’re a happy group.”
“Beads bring people joy,” Glenn says emphatically. “And there are no boundaries, no restrictions, no ethnic, religious, or age group that doesn’t include a certain amount of people who love beads.”
“Remember back when George Sr. said, “If the world did bead work, it would be a much kinder, gentler place.” Remember when he said that?” Glenn asks with a glint in his eye. “I taught him that one, actually.”
8560 Commerce Place SE
Lacey WA 98516