In contrast to her favorite poet Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Jaci Parrish took her own path when she opened a new bead boutique in Purdy.

On her way to work each day from Wauna, she would pass the building on the shore of Henderson Bay, and fell in love with its location. Approaching her 40th birthday, she had made a decision to follow the path of her passion.

One late November day as she noticed the building for rent, she had a far-fetched idea to place a beading business there, and started to work to make it happen.

Why beads? “There is just something about beading…the colors, design, and (the way) we make use of the craft,” she said.

There seemed to be a need for a local bead outlet. The Bead Factory in Tacoma and other stores near Silverdale were the closest, and Parrish knew many local people whose interest in beading was growing.

Lunch hour calls to other bead stores and suppliers gave her a quick education on what would be necessary to open her own shop.

“I called all over the country, and made decisions based on my own research, shopping, trial and error. People don’t share information with other vendors very easily,” she said. Parrish received quotes from $40,000 to $80,000 to purchase office equipment, credit card processing, furniture, display tables, and initial inventory to open. She humbly acknowledges, “I did it for less than that.”

Financing the venture with her own personal loan to the business, she signed a lease in mid-December. To her surprise, she was able to get through the permitting process quickly and opened The Beadin’ Path in mid-January.

Parrish credits her sister, Fran Paulman, who comes up from Portland every other weekend to share her knowledge and talent. “She’s an integral part of the store. I couldn’t have done it without her,” Parrish said.

Husband Bryan takes care of the building and grounds maintenance, and her stepchildren, Dylan and Leslie, have been a big help.

With its soft white walls and the backdrop of the Puget Sound reflected in the prisms of its colorful beads, the shop has a boutique feel, a peaceful aura, and a most refreshing atmosphere.

“It is happy and warm. I wanted a gathering place…a special place where people can share a hobby, relax, and bond with friends. I really feel there has been divine intervention with some of the people who come here,” Parrish said. “They have developed a common bond, some under the most challenging circumstances.”

KP Resident Barbara Anderson related her very personal experiences in the beading store. Anderson’s mother is battling a terminal illness, and when she visited the Beadin’ Path, the mother said, “These special people are helping you to get through my struggle.”  Anderson, whose nickname is “Lucky,” said, “It’s my place of peace…my safe harbor. I’d rather go there than anywhere. It’s the ‘total package.’ There’s something very special about it. It’s a place to go to relax.”

Another loyal customer, Sandy Frankie, said, “The Beadin’ Path has a life of its own. It’s one of the kindest, gentlest places there is. I take every class I can. It’s fun. It’s therapy, and there’s something magical about it.”

With a mailing list of about 250 people, and taking her lead from customers’ requests, Parrish publishes the class schedule for the following month about two weeks in advance.

“One of the most exciting things is that people discover in themselves that they can create beautiful things, and some go on to sell them at work or to friends,” Parrish said.

The sisters started a line of bead jewelry, AuClair, named after their mother’s maiden name. The line is recognizable because of the use of crystals and delicate designs, and has been featured in craft shows.

Course offerings include Basic Beginners, Netted Vase, and the popular Blossom Bracelet. Deb Saldivar instructs students in making wirework earrings, wire wrap rings, and wire bead caps. Other classes include knitting (suspended for the summer), and step-by-step instructions for toe rings, anklets, sunglass holders, and the crystal lace necklace. Part of the proceeds from sales of certain merchandise go to the Susan G. Komen Cancer Fund and to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides for housing of military families during hospitalization of their service members.

Two-hour classes cost $20 (plus materials) and group discounts are offered.

“We offer group events like birthday parties and ‘ladies’ night out’,” Parrish said, and plans some classes with wood beads for teen-age boys. “We’re growing, adding as we’re able. Next year, we are poised for great stuff, and will be accepting consignment art work.” Artists looking for a venue to show and sell their jewelry lines can negotiate a commission with The Beadin’ Path.

“Hit the Deck” was added during the summer as a Sunday class offering. Parrish said, “We might not have every bead under the sun, but you can bead under the sun,” on the deck overlooking the water.

Inventory includes beads made from glass, fire-polished, Austrian crystal, fine Japanese seed beads, to semi-precious stone like rose quartz, agate, tiger eye, turquoise, jasper, citrine, hematite, and vintage selections from the ‘20s to ‘60s.

Basic tools are available for sale as a set or individually. Prices range from 5 cents up to $10 or more for beads made from semi-precious stone. Finished jewelry products range from $15 to $120.

Growing up in the East, Parrish earned a degree in political science from Smith College. She lived in California for 10 years, and worked in real estate and administration. She always had a creative bent, and worked in the arts, including crafts, knitting and needlepoint. Parrish moved to Gig Harbor in 1999, and even with this new business venture, still works full time for the city of Gig Harbor.

“Loyal, supportive customers show me in so many ways that this path was meant to be,” Parrish said.

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