BEST PLACE TO DIG FOR BURIED BEAD TREASURE

Beads Galore

Beads Galore
You know something's become way too mainstream when PBS creates a TV series about it, like the new one just for jewelry-making and bead-stringing (we haven't yet gotten Beads, Baubles and Jewels in the Valley, sponsored in large part by Fire Mountain Gems, so start vigorously lobbying our local PBS station now). But long before the craze hit, Beads Galore, the veritable grandpappy of bead stores in the Valley, was pushing beads and stringing material for do-it-yourself accessory designers and homecrafters.

Beads Galore finally outgrew the funky industrial warehouse space it thrived in for years and now has moved to a sprawling retail store next to REI in Tempe. What it hasn't changed at the new location is its big open bins overflowing with glass, porcelain and clay beads from Czechoslovakia, China, India and Peru, which you can pick through for tiny treasures. Go ahead, let those sparkly jewel-like orbs slip luxuriously through your fingers as you dig deep into a pile -- you can actually afford these babies. Prices for bin beads range anywhere from 4 to 8 cents a gram, so they're always in demand. In fact, one Saturday it became virtually impossible to bag a space at the gigantic bead troughs hogging up a huge area in the rear of the store. If we didn't know better, we'd have thought we had stumbled onto a gaggle of crazed miners panning for gold.

Bead World
Sandwiched between a pottery-painting enterprise and a florist shop in a small strip mall adjacent to a floridly decorated Chinese restaurant, Bead World isn't much to look at from the outside. But swing open that glass door and, if you're a beader, an involuntary gasp will slide from your jaded lips. Though small, this new bead shop is artfully covered floor to ceiling with every conceivable type of bead, many of which we hadn't seen before -- and the quality of its carefully handpicked stock is refreshingly remarkable.

Not only does Bead World carry silver and vermeil beads from Indonesia and India, but also copper and brass variants you'll have to have. From Swarovski crystals to unusual Czech glass shapes, ethnic bone beads to enameled Chinese cloisonné, freshwater pearls to semiprecious gemstone beads, from basic findings to intricate carved jade pendants, this place has got it all -- and then some. And we've found every last one of its sweet staffers, for whom no question about beading is too stupid or ridiculous, to be helpful and pleasant. If you find otherwise, feel free to string us up.

If beads were edible, we suspect we would be considered morbidly obese at this point. Our insatiable appetite for the latest in jewelry-making components has even driven us to brave the wilds of the world-renowned Tucson Gem and Mineral Show every February for days on end. When the show is over, we pine for the high quality and good deals we've gotten there. To sustain us until next February, we hit AZ Gems in Tempe, a relative newcomer to the bead-store scene in the Valley.

This place is actually a wholesale importing business that's open to the public, and the prices reflect the wholesale aspect. We found beautiful turquoise, coral, rainbow fluorite, labradorite, amethyst, tourmaline, serpentine, jasper, amber, aquamarine and other semi-precious gemstone beads there in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes, and at prices that come close to the ones we get at the big gem shows. But be sure to follow proper "bead etiquette" when at AZ Gems, or Cye, the mountain man/prospector from Oregon who's the manager, will not be happy with the resulting mayhem you create. Cye will walk you through exactly what you should and should not do to organize your purchases, e.g., it's an absolute no-no to pull a strand of beads from a group of them without first holding on to the top of the hank (that's bead talk) and gently pulling your chosen strand away from the bunch. Hey, we know, but it's a small price to pay for the quality and prices you get at this place.

Scrapbooks Etc.
Locally owned Scrapbooks Etc. provides a haven for both serious and novice scrappers, all of whom walk around in a joyful haze amid the store's extensive -- and we do mean extensive -- selection of scrapbook- and album-making supplies. You'll find printed and solid-color papers of every conceivable hue and weight (including vellum and heavy cardstock), as well as punches, scissors, glue sticks, idea books, organizers, die cuts, stickers, and embellishments galore. Another plus is the store's scrapping classes. If there's not one in session when you stop by, you can visit the workshop at the back of the store and use the on-site tools to assemble individual pages or an entire album. We recommend calling ahead to make sure that the "open lab" is not full.
The Paper Studio
Phoenix still doesn't have a chapter of the Church of Craft -- the campy club that's popped up in other cities, devoted to, you guessed it, the art of craft. (Check it out at www.churchofcraft.org -- start a chapter here and we promise you a Best of Phoenix next year!)

But we've got better -- we've got Cindy and Gary Iverson, and the Paper Studio. This wonderful gallery/shop/school opened quietly this year, and we couldn't believe it when we popped in on a hot Saturday afternoon. The beautiful space, just across the street from the Tempe Library, is friendly to paper artists from scrapbookers to bookmakers -- a wide range. Cindy, who has an MFA in book arts, teaches a range of classes, from paper pouring (you literally mix and pour the pulp that will become handmade paper) to scrapbook-making. Gary teaches a variety of binding courses, and other local artists round out the schedule with classes like Polaroid transfers.

One of the nicest things about the Paper Studio is that it doesn't look down on scrapbookers but also doesn't stock a bunch of cheesy stickers. If you don't want to get too involved, you can buy beautiful stationery for a few bucks. Or you can have invitations printed for you.

The Iversons will even host a private party for you, with your choice of guests, teacher and class. Phoenix may not have the Church of Craft, but paper people still have a lot to be grateful for!

ABC Cake Decorating Supplies
We're not so good at decorating cakes, but we do love the boxes they come in. Not sure why, maybe it's a throwback to too many trips to Karsh's Bakery with Mom, back in the day. In any case, we go crazy for pink bakery boxes, and we've found the place to buy them: ABC. From cupcake-tiny to extra large sheet cake, you can fill your wishes, then go home and fill your boxes. We use ours to wrap gifts, but if you do want to bake a cake to put in yours, the kind folks at ABC can help you out there, too.
Misplaced your crème brûlée torch, or desperately seeking a salt pig? Kitchen Classics is the place for you. This store (you can also order online) is well known around town as the place to go for hard-to-find kitchen supplies. From high-end specialties to everyday spatulas, you can find it here, or, if you can't find it, the staff will help you. Kitchen Classics also has a great reputation for its cooking classes, which run from chips and dips to sweet and savory cheesecakes. Novices are welcome: Try Japanese Made Easy or Cake 101. Bon appétit!
La Grande Orange Grocery
Sarah Abbott
Anyone who laments Phoenix as a minefield of strip malls needs to head straight to the southwest corner of 40th Street and Campbell Avenue, to see what Kris and Craig DeMarco have done. Sure, they had a big shell of a former post office, which is now the wine bar Postino, but they also spearheaded the groovy makeover of the strip mall that fronts Postino with the corner market La Grande Orange. There's no hint of the grungy convenience store that stood in that spot for years; now you can get everything from fresh flowers to freshly baked English muffins at the Big O, as the locals call it. Next door, LGO serves its signature pizza, and a few feet down, Tammie Coe bakes her beautiful cakes and Paper Joy cranks out wonderful invites.

This corner is testament to what a few creative minds -- and more than a few well-placed dollars -- can do.

Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
Kazimierz Wine & Whiskey Bar
If some wine lists are like poems or short stories, then Kazimierz World Wine Bar's list is like reading a Russian novelist of old -- like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. You're not going to finish it in one sitting. As Yoda might say, overwhelmed you will be. After all, the list is made up of 2,600 wines from 40 countries, with 225 varietals represented. Prices range from less than $10 for a glass to upward of $4,400 per bottle, and there are plenty of lovely noshes to partake of while you imbibe. Nuts and cheese, if you wish only a nibble. Or Egyptian flatbread pizzas if you need something more substantial. Kazimierz shares its wine cellar with Cowboy Ciao and Sea Saw, and with this sort of largess, why shouldn't it? The whole thing is set up like some medieval speakeasy, with faux rock walls, a wooden roof, and a "secret" entrance in the back. Deep couches and dim lighting make for romantic interludes with that special cork dork in your life. And even if you don't know your Beaujolais from your Ripple, Kazimierz is still a sweet place to kick it.
Whole Foods Market
Be it from cow, goat, sheep, yak, llama or any other milkable mammal, we crave cheese in all its fat-laden, smelly grandeur. From mild-mannered Monterey Jack, Gruyère, Gouda and Havarti to rock-on Roquefort, Castello, Brie and Manchego, we can't get enough of the stuff, so it's a good thing we're near a Whole Foods Market, where the selection is nothing less than a veritable United Nations of Cheeses.

And since Whole Foods is admittedly dedicated to high-quality, mostly organic comestibles, both its imported and domestic cheeses contain no artificial flavors or colors or synthetic preservatives, be they from the wilds of Wisconsin, the plains of Spain or the frigid fjords of Scandinavia. We've found it hard to choose from all the artisanal cheeses this place offers -- those specialty cheeses of limited production that may include flavorings such as herbs, spices, fruits and nuts, like cabra al vino, which literally translated means Drunken Goat. It's a hard-to-find Spanish goat cheese from the province of Murcia dunked in red wine and aged to tangy perfection, almost always available here.

Best of all, Whole Foods likes cheese shopping for its customers to be risk-free, so you can ask for a little nibble of that triple-crème Camembert or the $16-a-pound Basque country Idiazabal before you commit yourself to spending beaucoup bucks for a pound of it.

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