Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vintage Lucite Beads
Part 2

Written by Heather DeSimone

Warehouse of Vintage BeadsWhere Did you Get those Lucite Beads?
Part 2: Our Lucite Bead History

In my first installment of 'Where did you get all those vintage Lucite beads?' I outlined how we came across our stash of Lucite beads. A guy called us with a warehouse full of old vintage beads and parts and he needed his space back. Well the longer I’m in the business, the more I learn. Even about my own stock.

For the last couple of years, a really fun gal named Danielle has been purchasing lots of our vintage Lucite stock for her very funky & successful line of jewelry. She has a great business and sells her wares mostly over in Europe (smart chic, considering the plight of the US Dollar right now). Anyway, this lady knows her plastics. She was teaching me a thing or two about our very own stock. And as we’d discuss the differences between Lucite and other vintage plastics, she kept using the term ‘Best New England Warehouse of Vintage BeadsPlastics’ to describe where our beads had been made. I kept thinking “What is she talking about?” but I didn’t say anything because I was afraid that maybe she’d misheard something that I said or maybe I’d misheard her. After all: the company we purchased the beads from was called Plastic Development in Warwick, Rhode Island. And Norm, the man who sold them to me had worked for that company for the last 45 years and knew his stuff. He told us all about making the beads himself back in the 70’s and 80’s. So for the first couple of conversations I didn’t say anything to Danielle. Finally, when I KNEW that I had heard her say very clearly “…and the beads that came from Best Plastics in Providence…” I interrupted. “What a sec, WHAT are you talking about? You keep dropping this name and I thought I was hearing things. I’ve never heard this name before. As far as I know, these Lucite beads were made by Plastic Development in Warwick, not Providence.” There’s always this veiled mystery that many vendors like to perpetuate. She was buying a lot of beads from us and I didn’t want her to think I had anything to hide about where they were from and where we got them. Danielle’s answer was “Geez, I don’t know. I thought YOU told me about Best Plastics.” I said “I’d never heard the name until you mentioned it.” And we moved on.

New England Warehouse of Vintage BeadsFast forward a few more weeks. I was at one of our favorite job lot warehouses where I had not been for over 2 years! And evidently I’ve missed out in the last 2 years too because we didn’t find a whole lot. Between being pregnant and having a newborn, it’s hard to travel a few hours each way, dig through dirty boxes that are 15 feet in the air, etc etc to do your buying. So we’ve been doing a lot of buying via our manufacturers overseas lately, because I can simply send an email from home and viola! Beads! Anyway, I was talking to Anthony who has been in business in the Rhode Island area for many, many years and his business was handed down to him from his Father-In-Law so he knows the industry. I mentioned Best Plastics and asked him if he’d heard of it. He said “Yeah, that’s that warehouse you bought out!” I nearly fell on the floor. I said “But that company was called Plastic Development…” And now you’re about to hear a thing of fables… bead myths from years past.

Best Plastics had been manufacturing beads for years, right across the street from Anthony’s warehouse in Rhode Island. In the early 1980’s, Best decided to shift their focus to manufacturing pressed plastic earring cards and other merchandisers. You know the type: when you go into WalMart and you see tacky earrings on a rounder, they’re hanging on these grey plastic earring cards with a patch of velvet on them that read “Fashion New England Warehouse of Vintage BeadsEarrings.” No matter what part of the world you’re in, when you see these, they’re probably made by Plastic Development in Rhode Island. Anyway, when they decided to shift their focus, they moved their company from a warehouse in Providence to a warehouse in Warwick and you guessed it, changed their name to Plastic Development. Anthony said “you know, they offered me that lot of beads and I just had too much plastic.” We purchased over 40,000 lbs so I can only imagine how many thousands of pounds they had offered him.

So, thanks to Danielle, I learned the real name of our beads’ manufacturer. And thanks to Anthony, we have thousands and thousands of pounds of Lucite beads to sell. These are the things that intrigue me still after all these years in this business: the lore of the beads. The history. Sometimes you hear these things from vendors and you think “They must have made that up to get me to buy this strand of beads, but it’s cool.” But the great thing about buying anything vintage, is that it has history. And the most mundane story can seem so riveting when it’s told in the context of something you love. Like beads.

No comments: