25th March 2021

As part of our #IOU Campaign it’s time to get to know the people behind our fabulous City Centre businesses! For our final week we bring you Kathleen, Owner of Abacus Beads on Castle Street.

Check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Q & A with Kathleen of Abacus Beads

Tell us about your business?

I opened Abacus Beads in 1991 (we’re actually celebrating our 30th birthday this month)! We were originally based in the In Shops on High Street but moved to Castle Street in 2003. If you've never been to a bead shop before, just think of a pick 'n mix for jewellery making! We currently import beads and components from all over the world and although they're primarily used for jewellery and accessory making, we also have fishermen using them for tying flies as well as model makers using them in miniature work, to name a few of the more unusual uses! We also provide a repair and re-stringing service for bead jewellery including pearl knotting. I work full time in the business and have 2 part time employees.

Why did you choose Belfast City Centre to open your business?

When I first opened 30 years ago, there was no online shopping, so it was important to be located in a busy area, especially when offering such a niche product. Hence the City Centre was the obvious location.

3 main attributes you need for the job:

I'd say creativity, vision and customer focus.

What are you most proud of?

I'm immensely proud to have kept the shop going for 30 years. Retail is hard work, even when things are going well, but throw into the mix a Primark fire and a pandemic 18 months later… it's like climbing Mount Everest!

If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be?

My brother, who has a learning disability. We're extremely close. I'd love to know what goes on inside his head and have a better understanding as to how he sees the world. Some customers will have met him in the shop.

How have you innovated over lockdown?

Lockdown has pushed me to get the new website sorted. It was on the cards for 2020, but with the shop being closed, has given me more time to focus on the website, which has turned out better than I imagined. I've also focused on improving our social media presence as it's been the main connection with our customers over the past year.

What are looking forward to the most after lockdown?

An evening out for dinner and a few glasses of wine with my friends!

How can customers support you right now?

I really have the most amazing customers, who have faithfully supported me over the past 30 years. Lots of them have been continuing to buy beads via the website, and I know they'll continue to support Abacus Beads over the remainder of lockdown and beyond.

What do you most love about Belfast City Centre?

I love that the City Centre is compact and everything is within walking distance. There's some great independent shops and amazing restaurants, which I look forward to visiting again soon.