By the Bay

Building a business, one bead at a time

judysalamacha@gmail.comAugust 4, 2013 

Susan Stewart likes her life. Family, business and community are her top priorities. In 2013, all’s well, but it wasn’t always that way.

Stewart moved to Morro Bay 25 years ago from Santa Cruz when her husband, Tom, then 41, decided to attend Cal Poly. She became the breadwinner working in the building trades as an archaeologist and house painter. When the economy tanked, jobs were scarce, and she had been raising Rylan and Lily.

“It’s been seven years since I bought Beads by the Bay,” Stewart said. “My wiser business friends advised me not to buy retail. My kids said, take the risk. Within six months, I had my investment back. For 18 years, I raised kids. Once a business owner, it became a different path.”

After five years on the board of directors, Stewart is president of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce and chaired the city’s Promotions Advisory Committee. She helped steady last year’s difficult transition as a new tourism bureau was created, the Promotions group was dissolved, and the Chamber of Commerce assumed a new focus and responsibility for economic development.

“In the long run, it will be good for Morro Bay,” Stewart said. “I really enjoy the chamber staff. They are working hard. Craig (Schmidt) works closely with Karin Moss, the new tourism director. Morro Bay needs tourism, but our town can’t survive on tourism. We need to attract more businesses, especially head-of household jobs. We’re doing more to assess what we have and need for locals and to attract new business and visitors from in and out of the county.”

As the owner/operator of her shop on Morro Bay Boulevard, she believes it is important to understand regulations that impact her business and suggest solutions that will make business better for everyone.

“I don’t like to complain without knowing how it works. There’s a sign ordinance in development now. We should be advising the city now and not complaining later.”

She admits her business is unique.

“Beads were the first ornaments. It’s a hobby for all ages. I have repeat customers from all over the United States and England. Many men. Making something beautiful is using our creativity. That’s good for the soul.”

Beauty is also found in her meditation garden adjacent to the bead shop. Managed by Helen Edwards, customers can sit and ponder or purchase drought-tolerant vegetation, U.S. garden art and even create in her quaint bead house.

Stewart has learned that customers like that Morro Bay is “a bit retro — walkable with good places to eat and hidden gems like the shoe repair and Cotton Ball.”

And, of course, Beads by the Bay. For more information, visit

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at or 801-1422.

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