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Passion for people, beads mesh at new shop

by: Carole Archer, Judy Woodruff, owner of Northwest Bead and Gift Co., at 140 N.W. Miller Ave., in Gresham, sells many of her glass and gemstone beads for 25 cents and glass beads for 10 cents.

Judy Woodruff is not afraid to take a chance.

She went to college in her 40s and once moved to Alaska, despite having no friends or family there.

Starting her own business is a natural move for Woodruff.

'This has always been a dream of mine,' Woodruff says of opening a bead store in Gresham. 'I started beading about 13 years ago … and when I moved to Anchorage I really started making jewelry. Beads took over my life.'

Located at 140 N.W. Miller Ave., in historic downtown Gresham, the new bead store is packed with beading basics - there are clasps, tools, books and, of course, thousands of beads. But the store, which opened full-time in September, is still growing, Woodruff says.

'My selection is narrow compared to others,' she says. 'I'm kind of letting the customer chart the way for me.'

One customer wants tiny seed pearls. Another wants Japanese Delica beads.

'And if there's one customer who wants it, there are four more out there who want it too,' Woodruff says. 'It's easy for me to buy beads that I like, but I want to carry the beads my customers like.'

Educating customers is another part of Woodruff's business plan. A table toward the front of the store features some fabulous bracelets and necklaces made by local bead artists - two of whom will teach beginning and intermediate classes at Northwest Bead and Gift Co.

'The classes cover all skill levels,' Woodruff says. 'There will be classes on basic stitching for beginners as well as advanced classes.'

For people who are completely new to the world of beading, Woodruff will offer a free basics class several times a month. The class is limited to four students, and participants will take home a pair of earrings they make themselves.

Beading teachers Julie Patterson and Kay Stewart-Wells will teach the beginning and advanced classes.

Stewart-Wells is teaching a complex African Helix stitch this month and has a sample of her own African Helix necklace on display at Woodruff's store. The two-part class is $70, limited to three people and takes place Oct. 12 and 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To see a list of classes offered at Northwest Bead and Gift Co., visit Woodruff's Web site at www.northwestbead.com.

Another thing that sets this shop apart from other bead stores is Woodruff's love of local artisans.

'I have beads from all over the world, but I'm trying to feature local artists,' Woodruff says.

Tom Dickson, a local East County painter, has paintings throughout the bead shop. Other artists display their woodwork and walking staffs, and Woodruff is always on the hunt for more local artists to decorate her shop's wall space.

'I used to sell my jewelry in a co-op in Alaska,' Woodruff says. 'So I know how hard it can be, as an artist, to get your goods out to market.'

The former drug and alcohol counselor thinks in terms of helping others and would like to mesh her interests.

'I have a degree in social work, and I really enjoyed connecting with the women I worked with and helping them,' Woodruff says. 'My dream is to be able to use this (the bead store) to do a social service, maybe to have some fund-raisers here.'

Woodruff says she loves sharing her passion for beads with others - her 15-year-old granddaughter, Katie Woodruff, a student at Barlow High School, already shares her grandmother's love of beads - and she will host weekly Wednesday evening Bead and Chat groups from 4 to 6:30 p.m.

'Bring a project to work on, your choice of refreshments and some beads to swap with a fellow beader,' Woodruff encourages people. 'This is a great opportunity to meet with others who enjoy beading, to share hints and to go home with some new beads.'

Northwest Bead and Gift Co. is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Friday; from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and is closed Sundays. For more information, call Woodruff at 503-669-7579.

If you go

What: Northwest Bead and Gift Co., a new bead store.

Where: 140 N.W. Miller Ave., in historic downtown Gresham.

Hours: Northwest Bead and Gift Co. is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday and Friday; from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The shop is closed Sundays.

Classes: The store will host a variety of bead classes for beginning and advanced students. To see a list of classes offered at Northwest Bead and Gift Co., visit www.northwest

bead.com.

For more information: Call owner Judy Woodruff at 503-669-7579.