Garden Club of Allegheny County event blooms into boutique shopping

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 6:40 p.m.

Making purchases at the Pizzazz event in Fox Chapel can help give Haitian women jobs or make a difference in the life of a senior citizen in California.

The nonprofit 1000 Jobs Haiti, which sells products made by women from the poverty-stricken country, and Sarah Oliver Handbags, which offers purses knit by residents from The Redwoods community of seniors in Mill Valley, Calif., are two of 30 vendors at Pizzazz, a three-day shopping extravaganza hosted by the Garden Club of Allegheny County from Oct. 16 to 18 at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

This event features quality items from around the globe. Vendors give a percentage of their profits to the garden club, which uses the money for regional conservation efforts, says Mardi Royston, who is co-chairing the event with Diane Viall.

It's the garden club's largest fundraiser. Last year, the event netted more than $80,000, which was distributed to eight conservation efforts in the region. Pizzazz should break the $1 million mark this year in money raised to date.

“I hear really good things about it, that they put on a marvelous show and really take care of their vendors,” says Lucy Close, who runs 1000 Jobs Haiti, headquartered in Little Compton, R.I., with her husband, Buck. “Selling these items is a wonderful way to create jobs for women in Haiti.”

Close and her husband travel to Haiti to meet with the women who create and design products such as embroidered baby items, towels, cocktail napkins and pillows. For this show, they also will bring holiday linens and tree skirts.

“We love to support great causes such as the work of the garden club,” she says.

Price points range from $5 to $150, but 90 percent of the products are in the $15 to $20 range, Close says.

Haiti has 80 percent unemployment, she says, and most of those out of work are women.

“These women really work hard, and they love knowing people in the United States are buying and enjoying their products,” Close says. “We work in collaboration with them. I go to them with ideas, and they share their thoughts with me. It's a wonderful partnership.”

A similar partnership runs deep between Sarah Oliver, owner of Sarah Oliver Handbags, and the senior citizens at The Redwoods community. The bags are hand-knit by the seniors who are called The Purlettes + One — all women and one man who get paid to create the bags made of Peruvian wool. They are extremely skilled and talented, Oliver says.

“They do all the knitting, and I have a team that does the finishing,” Oliver says. “I meet with them weekly, and they get satisfaction knowing that their bags are sold all over the country.”

Her company north of San Francisco will be part of Pizzazz for a sixth time. Oliver says Pizzazz is one of the most sought-after events in the country by vendors because of its history and the quality of the show.

“Fox Chapel seems like a tight-knit, family-oriented area,” she says. “Everyone from the organizers to the customers to the people at the club treat us so well, like family. They make it enjoyable and fun to sell our product.”

This year's collection has added chains, so purses can be worn on the shoulder or across the body. Prices range from $120 to $565. Each bag is adorned with a brooch to add a little “pizzazz” to the bag, Oliver says.

Another return vendor is Sally Bullock, owner of The Velvet Road, which sells one-of-a-kind velvet boots and shoes out of Columbus, Ohio. Prices range from $85 to $300. She plans to bring two new styles, a riding boot and a flat boot, in addition to the slipper and cowboy boot for which she is most known. She sells only through shows because her product is one that needs to be touched and tried on, she says.

“Pizzazz does a really good job of keeping the vendors fresh and keeping the patrons interested,” Bullock says. “You feel like it's a boutique.”

Creating that type of unique shopping atmosphere is the goal of Pizzazz, Royston says. A little more than half of the vendors are new.

Pizzazz is designed to bring resources from outside of Pittsburgh and include everything from clothing to home decor to gourmet treats and items for women, men and children.

New this year is the garden club's booth called Fleurs, a French-inspired floral market that will sell cash-and-carry bouquets cultivated from members' gardens.

Knowing that she is helping in these efforts was a reason to be part of this event, Jill Oleski says. She and daughter Katie co-own Just Girls, a Troy, Mich., company that carries contemporary apparel such as dresses, leggings and T-shirts and shoes and boots. Dresses range from $89 to $290.

“I have heard it is an amazing event,” Oleski says. “And that the venue is perfect. We hope that customers see that our clothing is not anything you would find in a department store. It also helps support a wonderful cause.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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