Although our shopping has become more and more virtual – many websites are announcing a "Black Friday Month" as opposed to just one day – there's nothing quite like handling the merchandise yourself and speaking with someone face to face about their products.
And when you're a shopper in the San Francisco Bay Area, an area that seems wired together more by the Internet than by the Golden Gate Bridge, it's a wonder that anyone ever leaves their homes to shop.
The best reason to break from this new tradition and get back to the old ways of shopping is iconic General Bead of San Francisco. With over 30,000 items in this spacious, two-level store, you could browse for hours and still not exhaust your imagination.
Meet General Bead. It only gets better inside! — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
And when they say "general," they mean general. Their enormous but well-organized collection includes antique sequins, bugle beads, chains, clasps, chandelier prisms, earring components, rhinestones and many, many more items.
Not only is the staff generous with their time and helpful with their knowledge, but the store also has an excellent supply of the necessary tools for any project, such as stork scissors, bent-nose pliers and precision shears.
General Bead puts the fun in "funky" — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
Shopping at General Bead is a social experience, the kind you can't quite duplicate on the Internet. If you walk in with no plan, you should be willing to talk with and listen to the employees who have years of experience in these crafts.
And even if you've been doing your own jewelry-making for years, keep an open mind for that tip you never thought of.
At the very least, leave time to check out the rhinestone eye skulls.
Cute yet creepy: rhinestone eye skulls at General Bead — Photo courtesy of Tom Molanphy
If you can't visit the store, General Bead does have a new but impressive online presence. Although they can't quite offer everything online that they house in the store, they're slowly adding inventory each day, so be sure to visit the website as often as possible.
(In this day and age, the store does make most of its money online, so employees definitely encourage visiting the website.)
But we can't recommend visiting the actual store enough. Located down a small alley in the always interesting SoMA (South of Market) District of San Francisco, General Bead is a hidden gem, pun intended.
If you're willing to put in the time, you'll be rewarded with a very special memento of your San Francisco trip after a visit to General Bead.