September 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Small Business: Art: Beads: Salem Statesman Journal: Lesotho RPCV Jim Lind builds success a bead at a time

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lesotho: Peace Corps Lesotho : The Peace Corps in Lesotho: September 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Lesotho: Small Business: Art: Beads: Salem Statesman Journal: Lesotho RPCV Jim Lind builds success a bead at a time

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Lesotho RPCV Jim Lind builds success a bead at a time

Lesotho RPCV Jim Lind builds success a bead at a time

Graduated from the University of California in 1969 with an art degree. Joined the Peace Corps and worked in Lesotho, a small country in Africa that was in the midst of a civil war, where he taught chemistry and physics. Later he worked in Ethiopia and taught graphic arts, including teaching how to silk-screening posters conveying messages about avoiding cholera. After leaving the Peace Corps, he returned to the United States where he worked for art museums, taught art classes, and restored Victorian houses. He also helped run that Nanny Goat Hill Gallery, the oldest cooperative art gallery in San Francisco.

Lesotho RPCV Jim Lind builds success a bead at a time

Building success a bead at a time

A crystal shop on a downtown corner grew out of gallery

Statesman Journal

September 17, 2005

Jim Lind, who operates Crystal Power & Light Co., says his business started as an accident.

The artist from San Francisco and former Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Africa has run a store in downtown Salem for 21 years. Lind and his wife, Lisa, run a shop that sells Tibetan crystals, African trade beads and jewelry made by the Linds.

The store also has work stations where customers can make their own jewelry.

In the late 1970s, on the way back from his brother's wedding in Washington, Lind visited a friend in Falls City. He fell in love with Oregon, and before returning to California, he made a down payment on property.

1. Why did you open a store like this in Salem? What niche does it fill?

Answer I didn't decide to open a store. The store is an accident.

I had a painting studio upstairs and I began making jewelry, different kinds of crystal jewelry. I made some for myself and friends. I started making more and more, and people wanted more.

So, I created a little gallery in my studio. I had my paintings on the walls and the jewelry. Then, I started bringing in different stones. Around 1992, a space opened up downstairs. I moved the business downstairs because it was doing so well.

2. You have African art in your store. Did your days in the Peace Corps help you obtain those items? Do you still have friends in Africa?

A. I really developed a strong affinity for African art. When you travel in Ethiopia, just watching the change in costumes and styles of jewelry is absolutely stunning. I have just loved African art ever since.

I have friends who come through here at least once or twice a month from Gambia. I have one friend in Kenya and one from Uganda. They come through with African art, statues, masks, and old trade beads.

African trade beads keep going up in value. More and more people like them. Japan and China are buying lots of them, so the price keeps rising. It's amazing.

What we're actually buying is European glass that's been in Africa for hundreds of years. The Europeans took them to West Africa to trade for natural resources.

Now, the Africans are trading them back to Europeans and doing very well.

3. Your store has been around for more than 20 years. How have you survived all this time?

A. We specialize in art, jewelry and unique gifts from around the world. I watch what's happening in fads, so we can ebb and flow and focus on different things.

Over the years, we have developed a specialty in crystals from Brazil and Tibet. We have also grown a huge specialty in African trade beads. Trade beads have been collected for hundreds of years and there's always been interest in crystals.

The other unique thing is half of our customers purchase jewelry that my wife and I make. The other half make it themselves.

We have a work station where they can sit down and put stuff together. We can be there as guides and teachers if they need help on how to put a clasp on, or how to work on a design, or whatever.

People don't use their right brains enough in this culture. It's kind of fun to get the creative juices flowing in people. Plus, we love creating ourselves.

4. How is the business doing? Are you profitable?

A. It's worked every year. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be here 21 years later. Whatever we're doing seems to be working.

5. Has the business ever struggled?

A. No, we have a fantastic, loyal customer base. We have a wide range of people who have learned about the shop over the years. Some only come back two or three times a year, but when you have a whole group of people who do that it really helps.

Plus, being located on street corner, we get new customers every day. They see the shop driving down the street.

6. Do you have any Internet or mail-order business?

A. No, we keep meaning to do that.

I have had jewelry sold in other people's catalogs. For instance, we had one catalog that carried our shark tooth jewelry. Another catalog loved our Tibetan crystals.

We've never had our own mail order business, we've never done eBay. I suppose we should do that. I can use a solar calculator really well, but that's about as high tech as I get.

7. What is your biggest day-to-day problem?

A. It's shoplifting. I have a lot of little stuff on display. I used to invite people in here like it was my living room and not think about it.

It's not a serious problem, but it does occur. It's something you always have to be aware of.

8. What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a small retail business in downtown Salem?

A. Salem is a tough place to start a business. A lot of little shops come and go. You have to diversify, or have a totally unique product. One of the things that is key to our success is our unique inventory and ethnic focus.

9. Has the Salem Conference Center done anything for your business?

A. This is just a weird, quirky story. A lady walked through the front door and ran out screaming. I mean literally screaming. I went out and asked if there was problem. She said "the incense, the incense, I'm going to have an anaphylactic reaction!"

I saw from the badge she was wearing that she was attending a convention. I thought, oh no, my first customer from the conference center runs out screaming.

Since then, we have noticed customers from the conference center. I have definitely noticed a bit of a pick-up, not huge, but there is some drift over, so that's good.

10. If you could change one thing about downtown Salem what would it be?

A. I would make it more pedestrian friendly, widen the sidewalks and slow the traffic down a bit. The city, at one point, was going to widen the sidewalks, put in benches, and trees, and make a promenade area.

Lisa and I totally supported that, but a lot of business people didn't. They said the construction would hurt their business. We were sad to see that go away.

More trees and benches would create an atmosphere to kind of slow people down and get them to hang a chill a little longer. or (503) 399-6657

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Story Source: Salem Statesman Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lesotho; Small Business; Art; Beads


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