After 23 years and a whole lotta necklaces, classes, and reams of string, the Bead Monkey is closing. In a letter to customers, owner Tina Lilja wrote, “It’s no fun to see another bead store shut its doors. The business is changing, pure, and unfortunately, not simple."
At one time, Lilja, along with her husband Dave, had three Bead Monkey stores—prime spots at 50th & France, Grand Avenue in St. Paul and Washington Avenue, just as the North Loop was starting to get hot...and very quickly, cost prohibitive for a small, independent operation. Recently, the Bead Monkey had scaled back to one smaller store at 50th & Penn in Minneapolis, but Lilja says it’s just gotten too tough to compete with Michaels and Target—the same fate that crushed independent scrapbooking stores.
There are other factors at play, Lilja says. Beading trade shows that used to be restricted to retailers now allow customers to attend, effectively cutting out the stores. Back in the days of what Lilja calls “credit card gluttony,” when customers had fat bank accounts and the perception of unlimited credit, they would buy hundreds of dollars worth of beads at the time. Today, no one spends like that on crafting, Lilja says. And, in this, the age of Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, many of those former top customers realize they still have ample supply.
Customers are also going online to buy beads and watch YouTube tutorials. “That’s great, I’m all for an open marketplace,” Lilja says. “But I can see the writing on the wall. If everyone is buying online, or getting it on sale at Michaels, I can’t exist as a business."
Lilja, who has been making and selling jewelry since high school, plans to focus on writing—her other passion—but doesn’t rule out a return to retail eventually.
A closing sale at Bead Monkey starts Saturday, March 5, with 50 percent off storewide. Bead Monkey plans to close on April 30. 4959 Penn Ave. S., Mpls. thebeadmonkey.com