We visited Al's with a neophyte beader this summer and came away with a single word: wow. Organized as though Martha Stewart herself had masterminded it, and completely covered in nothing but strings of beads of every make and color, Al's is so clearly the best bead store that it's enough to turn even the least-interested-in-beading crafter into a happy dabbler. Al's offers variety, selection, and quality, with a wide range of materials to both hobbyists and professional jewelers. The personable staff is wise enough to leave shoppers mostly alone to browse and get creative, and knowledgeable enough to confer on both materials and technique needed for pretty much every jewelry design. Glass cases housing silver and precious stones and tables of bead-filled bowls are surrounded by walls neatly arranged by material (everything from glass to jade to semi-precious stuff — and, oh, the turquoise!), color, and size. Al's can compete with any Garment District supply shop or gemstone-fair dealer, offering rare materials like watermelon tourmaline or simpler pieces made of paper or colored glass. Al's real secret weapon is Lisa, a beader who can answer any question you've got about beading ("Can I thread this on wire?") and will gently steer you away from mistakes she's made herself ("Don't mix crystals with those mountain-stone beads — trust me!"). The only problem with Al's is coming up with reasons not to go back there every single day.