While many of the businesses located near 3 Beads and a Button have succumbed to the recession, the vintage button and beading store has continued to thrive, building upon its solid customer base of avid jewelry makers and crafters. Since opening the store together in 1994, owners Beth McGuire and Toni Yamamoto have continued to bring Cupertino citizens a relaxing, intimate environment—even offering classes from beginning to advanced beading—to create beautiful jewelry for a fraction of the cost of department store prices. Here, McGuire and Yamamoto answer our questions.
1. How did the idea for 3 Beads and a Button come about?
Toni: Beth and I both were working in high tech, and we both wanted to do something that we love, so we put our heads together, and she said she loved to sew and I said I loved jewelry. That’s how we started the classes, too. There were other stores that sold beads and others that sold buttons, but none that sold them together.
Beth: We thought this was something we could both have fun with and keep going, and now it’s been 17 years!
2. Did you have a passion for jewelry making and sewing as a child?
Toni: Yes—I worked in a bead store when I was going through college, and Beth had a passion for sewing. We both sort of switched—after we started the business I fell in love with buttons and she fell in love with beads.
Beth: I did have a passion for sewing when I was little. I wasn’t exposed to beading till I was older. I had a boyfriend who bought me an African trade bead from Morocco, and that was the start of my beading passion.
3. What is your favorite part of owning the store?
Toni: One day a customer came in and thanked Beth and I for giving her so much creativity. We try to inspire people to create jewelry and save money. You can save a fraction of the price by not going to a big department store.
Beth: I think I love teaching the classes, and I really enjoy the back and forth, because we have a lot of incredibly creative people coming in here.
4. What are some of the challenges of operating a business in Cupertino?
Toni: I don’t think there’s anything to Cupertino that’s challenging, but our biggest challenge is that right now all of our neighbors are empty. Our biggest challenge is letting people know that we’re still here. So we’re focusing on keeping the word out.
Beth: I think in owning a business in general, I think working to keep your enthusiasm up and to feel fresh about the subject is one of the biggest challenges.
5. What is the best thing about operating in Cupertino?
Toni: Doing something I love, and seeing people light up.
Beth: It’s a peaceful, trouble-free neighborhood. The sheriff’s department is very good, and on the few occasions we’ve needed to call them, they’ve always been here right away. Cupertino’s been good to us.
6. What made you decide to start offering beading classes?
Toni: We offered those from the beginning—we offer basic technique-driven classes, as well as advanced classes and specific projects as well. Beth and I, and most of our employees teach the classes.
Beth: The classes are kind of the underlying engine behind the whole thing…people will still come here after 17 years and say ‘What’s going on?’
7. What are you proudest of in regards to your business?
Toni: That we put together a business that we love and that we employ people—we contribute to the livelihood of both our employees and our customers—it’s like bead therapy.
Beth: I’m very proud that I’ve been in business for 17 years and with the very same business partner—and we still like each other!
8. If you could operate anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Toni: I’m a native Californian—I was born and raised in San Jose and I can’t think of a better place to live.
Beth: Maybe in Paris some place? If I spoke French! But I like it here. We looked in Saratoga and places in San Jose, and Cupertino seemed like a good fit.
9. Do you still sew/bead in your spare time?
Toni: Yes! All the jewelry we have on, we’ve hand-made.
Beth: Yes—a lot of times, we’re busy making samples for the next classes, to help teach our customers.
10. What’s one thing the citizens of Cupertino should know about 3 Beads and a Button?
Toni: That you can make a fabulous piece of jewelry inexpensively. We have a large collection of crystal here, we have trunk shows all the time—we keep it fresh and we have a huge selection. On Mondays and Tuesdays, people can come in and socially bead, and use the tools available here in our classroom space.
Beth: If they want a fun and relaxing time, even if they don’t think they’re creative, they might be surprised at what they’d be able to do, even if they have no prior experience.
For those interested in the unique beads offered at 3 Beads and a Button, the store is hosting its Venetian Bead trunk show until Aug. 9.