Shop patrons design, make jewelry

March 25, 2007|by MARIE GILBERT

Allie Buchman has found her creative muse in jewelry.

It started when she was a little girl, fashioning necklaces from seashells and it continued through her high school and college years when she used her talent to make gifts for family and friends.

Today, Buchman has turned what was once a hobby into a lucrative business. Along with her husband, Nathan, she is the owner of The Potomac Bead Company.

While she has had a long love affair with jewelry, opening a jewelry-making shop wasn't always one of Buchman's goals.

"It just sort of happened," she said. "When I graduated from Dickinson (College in Carlisle, Pa.) several years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do post-college. I thought I might continue my education or find a teaching job."


Nathan, who at that time was her fianc, had graduated a year before her and returned to his native Williamsport with a business degree in hand.

"He had always wanted to be self-employed," Buchman said. "So, following my graduation and marriage, we began looking for ways to make that a reality."

That was when the idea for a bead shop began to take shape.

"We saw an opportunity for such a store in the Hagerstown area," she said. "So we thought, 'let's see what happens.'"

The couple opened the doors to their new business at 109 S. Potomac St. in November 2005.

"It's a decision we've never regretted," Buchman said. "Our families thought we were insane. They couldn't understand how anyone could make a living selling beads. But they supported us all the way. And we've never looked back."

Buchman said the business has been a success since the first day - so successful, in fact, that it wasn't long before the couple opened a second store on South Main Street in Chambersburg, Pa.

Both locations provide a wide array of materials for making one's own jewelry, including gemstones, glass, sterling silver, wire, tools, books and more.

While the staff at The Potomac Bead Company will custom-design jewelry, Buchman said she is especially interested in teaching, educating and training people in how to make their own jewelry.

"We offer more than 35 different classes ranging from the beginner level through advanced," she explained. "You can do a one-time class or participate in a series of classes. You can sign up for classes with the general public or you can schedule a private class for five or more people. But what we really want to do is share our love of jewelry-making with others."

In addition to classes, the stores offer birthday parties, which have been a hit with all age groups.

"I've had 4-year-olds and, recently, a 68-year-old woman who had a party. And, regardless of age, everyone has fun."

Buchman said she loves to see young children come into her store and develop an interest in making jewelry.

"I started at a young age and was inspired by an artistic mother and grandmother," she said. "So I love it when parents come in with their children to make something together. It's a real bonding experience."

While the business has been well-received, Buchman said she and her husband continue to find ways to grow. Recently, they completed a large project bringing the store's inventory to the Internet.

"We have a lot of customers who travel here from outside the area," she said.

"Instead of making a two-hour trip, they can now buy their supplies from home."

The Potomac Bead Company also has begun wholesale offers to smaller bead stores and designers.

Because the business has been so successful, Buchman said they have outgrown their current store on South Potomac Street.

By the end of March, they hope to have moved into their new location at 53 W. Washington St.

"It's a much bigger store with more room to move around," she said. "Our regular customers know not to come into the store on Saturdays because it's such a madhouse. Our new location will give us much more space and more opportunities to serve our customers."

Buchman said she and her husband are committed to staying in downtown Hagers-town and are excited about the revitalization that is taking place.

"We love it here and enjoy working with other downtown businesses," she said. "Our decision to locate downtown is something we don't regret."

Buchman said there is another plus to having a thriving business.

"Our success has enabled us to give back to the community," she said. "We offer free classes for various charities and are able to support causes that are dear to our hearts. That's something we've always wanted to be able to do. We feel very fortunate."

More information about the business is available at

Cutline: By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Allie Buchman is pictured with some of the wares at The Potomac Bead Company in downtown Hagerstown.

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