AT THE TENDER AGE OF 18, Brandy McNair was burnt out. The creative fire for handcrafting jewelry that had fueled her childhood and teen years had fizzled. “I wanted to explore other things,” she recalls. But seven years, a bachelor’s degree in interior design and one desk job later, she realized jewelry-making wasn’t just a phase.
“When I was miserable at my desk job, I’d pull out my bead box,” she says. The tactile experience of arranging beads and baubles in different color combinations soothed her while stimulating her imagination. “That’s when it occurred to me this is what I should be doing. This is what I loved.”
In 2008, she reclaimed her first love and christened her business Bella Vita, which is Italian for “beautiful life.” She had the name, a retail sales license and the materials to make jewelry but lacked a proper studio. For several months, she made jewelry in the backroom of a friend’s liquor store before moving into a small studio behind Argenta Bead Co. in North Little Rock. On weekends, she sold her jewelry at craft fairs, farmers markets and festivals, making a name for herself and building a following.
When she finally opened a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Little Rock’s historic Lafayette Building in 2014, she had everything she needed—jewelry supplies and inventory, business know-how and a loyal customer base. She soon expanded into selling wholesale, and now you’ll find Bella Vita’s cast-bronze and precious-metal pendants, natural stone necklaces and hand-stamped designs in more than 100 stores across the country. And you’ll find Brandy sitting at a table filled with wire, chains, stones and sparkling glass beads, hard at work—and play.
→ Visit Brandy at her downtown storefront on Thursdays and Fridays.