Black and gold beads still in hot demand

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Big, shiny beads in purple, green and gold were flying off the shelves at Europe's Finest in Gulfport. Soon, they'll be flying off the floats.

"The popular Mardi Gras beads are the bigger the bead, the better," said Jim Sachleben, who is in charge of online sales for the store.

Italian-style carnival masks and decorations are also hot sellers this season.

"It has slowed down, but based on the economy, we've done well," said Sachleben.

On Friday, some shoppers were on the hunt for more than just throws.

"I called my friend Renee I said, 'Renee, what are you doing this weekend?' I said, 'We're going to Mardi Gras.' And she was like, 'Yeah!'" said Kielo Ford.

Ford and her friend drove in from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Their cart was filled with gifts for a few friends back home.

"Look at the jalapenos! Aren't they fabulous?" Ford asked as she held up some pepper beads. "And look at the masks."

She also bought beads for a firefighter friend and some in Tennessee school colors.

"Look at this! Tennessee Tech boys, here we go," she said.

The most popular beads right now are still the fleur de lis, Saints, pretty much anything black and gold. But all 25,000 Saints-related beads at the store have been sold out.

"Before the Super Bowl all the way to the Super Bowl, then it just went like crazy. People in and out of the store, just buying us out," said Sachleben.

Mike Szymanski will be riding on a Saints float in Gulfport on Saturday.

"I'm looking for black and gold stuff. They're probably not going to have much, but I'm going to try to get a good mixture and stuff," said Szymanski.

So Szymanski picked up a few bags of plastic footballs instead.

The store expects to get busier as Fat Tuesday approaches.

"We want to be just booming," said Sachleben. "We'll stay open basically as long as got customers walking through that door."

The owner said online sales for Mardi Gras items are also strong. The store has shipped more than 5,100 orders to places like England, Canada, and to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. @

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