Peer Amid Beads to move into McDonald's downtown building

Posted: Sunday, December 19, 2010

The corner of Front Street and Seward Street won't be empty after McDonald's leaves that location at the end of the month. Peer Amid Beads is taking over the spot after the first of the year.

The bead shop's owner, Gema Thomas, is looking forward to the opportunities she said will come with the new location. She said while Peer Amid Beads has been at its current location in Marine View Center for around 9 years, she's been looking for a way to expand for several years. She had been looking into some sites when this location became an option.

Thomas said the shop's current space occupies about 750 square feet, while the McDonald's space offers 3,500 square feet.

Thomas said one of the reasons for seeking more space is to expand the shop's art displays to include both local and outside works. She wants to add art from around the world.

"We're hoping to get more locals coming in and trying to introduce new artists to the community," she said.

Thomas said the store will continue its focus on local artists as well. Part of the expansion for the new area will include works by local carver Gerald Riley II.

With such a strong emphasis on art, Peer Amid Beads will have a presence on First Fridays.

The bigger space will also allow for more products, many of which are handmade by her own family. Her daughter, Mithril, makes jewelry and soaps and her son, Thorin, and husband Michael, make beads.

She said there will be room for more things here, like clothing, candles and essential oils. The new space will also allow for onsite bead construction, custom jewelry repairs and even beading classes.

"We're just expanding on what we have already," she said.

Thomas expects the bigger space at a busy intersection to offer a lot of new customers as well.

"I expect to be pretty busy. It is a big spot"

While the new space offers more room, it may also come with challenges for the staff. While Peer Amid Beads has remained a family operation, Thomas said eventually more people may be needed to maintain the larger area.

Thomas said the plan is to start renovating the building in January. She said they plan to move in and open in February then hold the official grand opening in March.

Thomas said that she'll keep the old location for the time being. She'll be using it while the expansion into the new space is occurring but isn't sure what she'll ultimately do with it.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@ juneauempire.com.



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