Store does better than owner expected on opening day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

By Sarah Light, staff writer

At first she wondered if it would go over well in a small town.

But now, after operating the store for about 2 1/2 years, Sue Vaagen, owner of Birds & Beads on East Main Street in Albert Lea, said her beading business is doing well.

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&8220;It&8217;s more than just walking in here and buying beads,&8221; she said. &8220;I think it&8217;s like therapy.&8221;

Vaagen said people come in on their lunch hour just to bead and find other times to attend her classes on some of the latest beading tips.

&8220;There&8217;s so many different aspects of beading,&8221; she said.

Not only are there several ways to make the jewelry &8212; such as with needle and thread or with wire &8212; but there are also thousands of different kinds of beads to choose from for each project.

And Vaagen can help with it all.

While it&8217;s fun to help people make new creations, the business owner said, opening up the store has also given her the opportunity to build relationships with her customers and with other business owners like herself.

Vaagen said she got started beading after her mother, Marlene Overgaard, took up the hobby and taught her how to do it.

They started selling jewelry here and there, and shortly after, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While receiving radiation for that cancer, Overgaard taught others about beading and sold more of her jewelry.

Her desire was that if she were younger, she would want to open up her own beading business, Vaagen said of her mother.

Then after interest in the beading increased, and another close friend was also diagnosed with breast cancer, Vaagen said she got to thinking about how short life is. Though she had never

opened a business before, it was something she wanted to do.

She talked to her mother about opening up a bead shop and also went to the owners of the closest bead shop in Owatonna to ask them how they felt about a store opening up in Albert Lea.

They were very supportive and offered words of advice, she said.

So with the help of her mother, Vaagen opened the store in January of 2005.

&8220;I feel like I came into it at the right time,&8221; she said.

Now she gets customers from Albert Lea, Austin, Wells and many of the surrounding communities.

One of those customers, Jill Petersen, said she has been coming to the store basically since it started, but for the past few months has been coming about every other week.

&8220;If I can learn how to do this, anybody can do this,&8221; Petersen said.

She and her 14- and 15-year-old daughters enjoy beading, and having a store in Albert Lea saves them from having to travel long distances to get supplies, she said.

For more information on Birds & Beads, or on the classes Vaagen offers, call 373-1870.

Birds & Beads is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Thursdays it is open from 1 to 8 p.m., and on Saturdays it is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sue Vaagen

Age: 52

Residence: Albert Lea

Livelihood: owner of Birds & Beads

Family: husband, David, two daughters, Heather and Kelly

Interesting fact: In addition to beading, she enjoys sewing.