Susan Silverman; Store Owner With A Passion for Beads

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Susan Hunter Silverman, 56, founder and owner of S & A Beads in Old Town Takoma Park who kept in touch with beaders worldwide via her Web site, died April 20 at Holy Cross Hospital. She had complications from an infection called MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.

Mrs. Silverman began selling beads, jewelry-making parts and gift items in the mid-1980s at open-air flea markets across the Washington area. She was a regular at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill and the Bethesda Farm Women's Market on Wisconsin Avenue.

She took the business indoors in 1987 to a small store on Carroll Avenue, and later to the shop's current home on Laurel Avenue. In the early 1990s, she opened two other bead shops, one in Georgetown and the other in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Because of health problems, she sold the Rehoboth store and closed the Georgetown store in the late 1990s and focused on the Takoma Park shop and on a Web site, , which she and her son, Abraham (the "A" in S & A), had begun to develop.

Mrs. Silverman's eclectic taste for brilliant colors and diverse cultures was reflected in her jewelry design and the management of her store. She loved sharing stories with customers about the cultural and artistic provenance of the beads and artifacts she sold.

"The nice thing about bead stringing," she used to say, "is that you can get a beautiful result at the first attempt, unlike other crafts such as playing the violin."

A native of Arlington, Mass., Mrs. Silverman graduated from Simmons College in Boston in 1971 and moved to Vermont. She opened a photography studio in Northfield, Vt., with a small inheritance from her maternal grandfather, Wilbur Starkey, one of the first salesmen for the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. She married fellow photographer Jerry Ferency in 1972.

The business did not prosper and by 1974 had closed, in part because of her recurring health problems. Her marriage ended a year later.

In 1977, she moved to Washington with her second husband, an environmental lawyer. She made a living in a variety of craft-oriented businesses, including photography. One business she especially enjoyed was buying, mending and selling used children's clothing. Mrs. Silverman also worked as a teacher's assistant at Murch Elementary School in the District.

She also was an excellent seamstress and quilter.

Survivors include her husband, Larry J. Silverman, whom she married in 1975, of Takoma Park; two children from her second marriage, Abraham Hunter Silverman of Wheaton and Emily Hunter Silverman of Takoma Park; a sister, Carol Thomas of Fort Washington; and a brother, John A. Hunter III of Haddam, Conn. A daughter, Katheryn Silverman, died in infancy in 1984.

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