Meet the Bead Man of Encinitas

Phil Fischman, behind the counter at Beads, Crystals and More, wearing some of his favorite pieces.
Phil Fischman, behind the counter at Beads, Crystals and More, wearing some of his favorite pieces.
(Photo by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt)

If you’re a beader or a rockhound, you already know Beads, Crystals and More, a shop in the Lumberyard that’s been there for over two decades. And whoever you are, you may have been lucky enough to venture inside and see geodes, African and Native American totems, and the small but impressive museum in back, and maybe have a chance to chat with the owner, Phil Fischman, about beads, crystals, and much, much more.

A Jersey boy who grew up near the Jersey Shore, Fischman’s love of rocks started when he was about seven; he didn’t get into beads until the summer of ’69, when he was 15, and stopped into a shop on the boardwalk to buy a few beads to go with some shells he was stringing to give to his sister and some friends.

“I was always a creative kid,” he said. “And I suddenly got turned on by a big red- white-and-blue-striped bead, and asked the guy in the store about it. He said it was an African trade bead called a Chevron, made in Venice in about the year 1500, and worn by African kings and warriors. I bought my two dollars’ worth of beads, and when I walked out of the store, my brain was buzzing. Art, history, culture, travel! Wouldn’t it be great to have a small bead store somewhere near the ocean someday?”

Thirty years later, Fischman walked into a bead store on South Coast Highway 101, needing to make a 10-cent purchase. He was making 43 pairs of earrings for his wife’s 43rd birthday, to match the bead necklaces he’d already made her, and found himself short one head-pin. He usually bought 1,000 at a time, but he’d just used his last, and her birthday was the next day.

“The store was called Beads and More, and it was half-empty,” he said. “But I bought my head-pin and was about to walk out when I noticed a little sign that said: Bead Store For Sale. They wanted cash; we didn’t have the money. Driving home, I saw a cloud formation in the sky: it looked like an eagle, and the eagle is my totem. My wife believed in me; we took everything out of the bank, took out a second mortgage on our house and borrowed $5,000 from my father. I knew nothing about visualization at 15, but I was actualizing this store way back then.”

An African King’s Chair, from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, now sitting outside the museum in the back of the store.
An African King’s Chair, from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, now sitting outside the museum in the back of the store.
(Photo by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt)

Somewhere along the way, Fischman had spent a year at Ohio University and then hitchhiked cross-country, learning a lot about Native American beads. “I got a job at a very cool bead store in Tucson,” he said. “They had a museum in back, and they’d been written up in ‘Arizona Highways.’ When they closed down, I bought most of their beads and their museum collection.”

You can see some of these in his bead store, and if Fischman is in, as he often is, you can ask about whatever catches your eye, and hear stories about it. Every piece in the store was handpicked, he’ll tell you—bought because he loved it, from people he knows, likes and trusts all over the world.

But don’t wait too long. The current owners of the Lumberyard have raised his rent high enough to price him out of Encinitas, so soon he’ll be closing his doors and preparing for the grand opening of a new store in downtown Vista on June 14—his father’s birthday.

Be sure to stop by the old store before then, admire its wonders, take advantage of the “2020 Sale”—20% off anything over $20—and chat with the Bead Man while he’s still in the neighborhood. “I’m a merchant of joy,” he says. “We transact love and light; we disguise it as beads and rocks.”

Fischman will be at 967 S. Coast Highway 101 until May 15, and the store is open seven days a week. There will probably be a farewell sale too—and a Hug-a-thon. For more information, see BeadsCrystalsandMore.com or email Phil Fischman at beadlovers@aol.com/


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