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Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing: A store for every kind of beader (5 photos)

This week’s Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing visits Jangles, a beading supply store in town.

THUNDER BAY -- “I’ve been a crafter my whole life,” says Susan Frost, owner of Jangles, a beading supply store on 11th Avenue. “My very first ‘job’ was when I was 12 years old and made fuzzy dice and sold them to a craft store in Thunder Bay.”

Since that time, Frost’s career has evolved many times, from a retail job with Shell Canada to owner of a greenhouse and gift shop, where she sold amethyst jewelry she made herself.

She spent a long time looking for a good location that was affordable. Eventually, the owner of the property on 11th Avenue where Jangles still stands offered her a deal to rent it to her for a lower price for a year, while she got the business on track.

Jangles opened in November 2008. “I was scared I wasn’t going to make it, but every month I was able to pay the rent,” Frost remembers. “I used to do everything myself. I never took a day off.” A beading supply store involves a lot of repackaging merchandise, and Frost couldn’t afford to hire help at first. “If I was at home, I was doing beads. Christmas time, I was doing beads. If I didn’t package it, I didn’t sell it. I wore my thumbs out doing it non-stop for five years.”

After about five years, she was able to start hiring help, and “it’s a good little business now. It’s enough for a modest little life,” she says. The shop currently employs three people, including Lynne Buzzi (pictured), a goldsmith and jewelry maker. Frost and Buzzi do a lot of repairs for costume jewelry.

About 75 per cent of Jangles’ customers are Indigenous, according to Frost, and the winter is usually a busy time, with people using winter roads to come to town to stock up on supplies. She sells a variety of materials for traditional beading, including hides and furs.

“I don’t make much money on those,” Frost admits, “fur is extremely expensive.” Previously, furs and hides were prepared using very toxic chemicals that are now banned in Canada. “Now [the chemicals are] vegetable-based, but that has driven up the price. Furs from India are cheaper but they’re done in arsenic. So if a baby chewed on a bit of hide, it would be poisoned. There’s thought that goes into where you buy your product.”

Frost shut down her website in early 2020, planning to become a seller on Amazon instead. A week later the lockdown hit, and she revived the website so that people could browse her merchandise online. She is still planning to transition to Amazon. “You can find beads on Amazon; the same stuff as I sell, but it’s coming from China, so people have to wait for shipping.” She hopes that a Canadian-owned business would be popular with customers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of import duties and long shipping times.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Jangles was the only bead store in the city, however, Thunder Bay is also home to Unique Family Crafts.