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Personalized Jewels 

Jewelry has been a key fashion accessory for eons, and finding just the right piece for an outfit or obtaining a design that fits your particular style can be exhilarating. Finding a great piece for a good value, even a steal, or making it yourself can be even more gratifying and is something Nancy Campbell has gotten to witness almost every day for the past 12 years at The Bead Shop (4612 Magazine St., 895-6161; 800 Metairie Road, Metairie, 837-0371).

The stores -- the first such business in Louisiana when Campbell, a potter and teacher by trade, opened the first shop in 1992 -- offer thousands of choices in beads, charms, jewelry ornaments, clasps, dividers, and other supplies. There is even ready-to-wear jewelry designed by The Bead Shop employees and other jewelers across the country. The stores also offer classes for beginners as well as more advanced craftspeople.

"There's creativity in everyone, and we aim to allow people to bring out their creativity at whatever level they're comfortable with," says Campbell, who taught pottery classes at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts for 10 years before dedicating herself to The Bead Shop full time. "That's why we offer support everywhere from having beautiful things already made to having designers who work with people Š all the way from doing it for them to helping them string (together customers' designs), to teaching classes. We offer encouragement for helping people to design and make their own jewelry and make and design jewelry to sell."

Campbell first hit on the idea for The Bead Shop after the gallery where her pottery had been displayed in The Riverwalk Marketplace closed. Her husband had encouraged her to open her own shop to sell her pottery, but she decided to combine pottery and beading supplies after visiting a jewelry-making store in Houston in July 1992.

"I was so impressed with it; the clientele was so varied," she recalls. "There was everything from teenage girls to Muslim men there shopping. I knew it was a good idea when I couldn't get my husband's nose out of the beads. He's just a normal guy, and I thought if it could get my husband's interest, it was for everybody." She opened her first shop, which mixed beading supplies with her pottery, during Art for Arts Sake in October of that year. She opened the second shop on Metairie Road in 2000 and phased out pottery altogether.

At the time she started the business, Campbell thought she was in on the front end of a hot trend but says that it has only become more popular over the past decade and the variety of choices she carries is continually expanding. "We are trying to appeal to so many different people and their needs are so varied," she says. "We literally have multiples of thousands of choices of beads ... from beautiful faceted stones to some boars' teeth and snake vertebrae and wild things like that." There also are antique pieces, freshwater pearls in a variety of colors, Austrian crystals, the more affordable Czech crystals, glass beads, shells, sterling silver, pewter, turquoise and many things in between.

Much of the business' success can be attributed to the expert help customers receive from employees, whether it is advice about what kind of clasp to use or actually putting jewelry pieces together for them. There also are formal classes on everything from simple stringing methods to making chandelier earrings and other advanced techniques.

No More Excuses

Still trying to fulfill your New Year's resolution to become healthier and more fit? Franco's Lakeview Athletic Club (111 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 286-8801; www.francoslakeview.com) wants to make it easy by offering free visits for non-members as well as special half-hour Pilates sampler classes during Get Active America! Week through May 23.

Franco's is one of many health clubs across the country celebrating Get Active America! Week in response to statistics that indicate that about 129 million Americans are overweight, and about 40 percent are sedentary. In honor of the week, Franco's is inviting non-members to use the Lakeview club free of charge and take advantage of a number of featured classes such as Pilates mat classes, power yoga, spinning to oldies or techno music, progressive step and others. There also are nutrition workshops. For a complete schedule of activities log on to the club's Web site or call for information.

Franco's Lakeview offers cutting-edge equipment and a range of programming at its 23,000-square-foot facility and is dedicated to showing New Orleanians that staying physically active can be fun as well as beneficial. It is one of the only health clubs in the area that offers beginner, intermediate and advanced Pilates "reformer" classes as well as Pilates mat classes. It also offers personal trainer services, a range of group classes, a coffee and wine bar and "martini nights" featuring music by classical guitarist Thom Sandal, a remodeled cycling studio and a new stretching area. Franco's also is incorporating Bodyjoy's Day Spa and the Advantage Physical Therapy Clinic into its fitness complex.

click to enlarge Customer Renee Ferrera (right) makes selections of beads to make a piece of jewelry from the thousands of choices available at The Bead Shop Uptown.
  • Customer Renee Ferrera (right) makes selections of beads to make a piece of jewelry from the thousands of choices available at The Bead Shop Uptown.
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