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High-end shopping bazaar offers a gold mine of unique items

| Friday, Oct. 15, 2004

Halloween is coming soon, and those who haven't finished their shopping had better hustle.

For Christmas gifts, that is.

Officials from the annual Pizzazz event in Fox Chapel say hundreds of Pittsburghers think early Yuletide shopping is a great idea, once they see the vast selection of otherwise hard-to-find merchandise at the charitable shopping bazaar. Pizzazz features more than two dozen vendors -- almost all from out of town -- selling everything from fine jewelry to clothes, and home decorations to gifts.

"Many people wait for Pizzazz to arrive every October," says Nancy Zappala, co-chair of publicity for Pizzazz, which is in its 10th year. "It's one of those annual events you just don't want to miss in Pittsburgh.

"People can blow their entire Christmas list," she says. "They just go to Pizzazz and find every unique, unusual but high-quality gift for people."

Pizzazz also attracts people who want to enjoy a sophisticated evening of socializing, and who want to support the Garden Club of Allegheny County. The club, which sponsors the event, donates money raised from Pizzazz to several environmental causes such as the Riverlife Task Force, which cleans up the three rivers.

"All of the money raised goes back into the community," Zappala says.

Money raised comes from ticket prices and the 28 vendors, who donate a portion of proceeds from their sales. Last year, Pizzazz raised $70,000, and the garden club has raised and donated approximately $300,000 to environmental projects since the event's inception.

More than half of this year's vendors are returning from last year's Pizzazz. The merchants typically travel throughout the United States to sell their gifts at trunk shows, and most have merchandise that is not available in stores, either locally or outside of the region, Zappala says.

One of the vendors -- Creme de la Creme of Winnetka, Ill. -- will bring items including decorative accessories for Christmas, children's clothes, women's jackets and sweaters, monogrammed shams, lingerie and toiletries. Owner Sandy Freeman has brought her merchandise to Pizzazz for four years. Prices range from $3 gift enclosures to $350 jackets.

"We're just trying to find things that are new and different, that you won't find at many stores," Freeman says. "I think that's why we're so successful here; people can find something for everyone on their Christmas list, regardless of the price."

Susan Gubelmann -- who does most of her business in Southampton, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla. -- will bring her collection of cashmere throws with mink or suede trim, gold studs and cuff links, needlepoint pillows and more. Prices for items from her self-titled business range from $5 stocking stuffers to fancy $2,000 accessories.

Gubelmann travels around the United States to do about 12 trunk shows per year, and attended Pizzazz last year.

"These girls run the best shows I've ever done," she says, referring to the garden club organizers. "Pizzazz is the best-run and -attended show of any of the places.

"I think it's the diligence of the committee," Gubelmann says. "They really know what the vendors need; they just totally get it."

Pam Scott of Westport, Conn., agrees. Her business, Catch All, has sold a hefty supply of linens, silk and tapestry evening bags, pajamas and other gifts during the three years she has attended Pizzazz.

"It's just so ... very eye appealing, very well arranged and very laid out," says Scott, who offers personalized monograms on many of her items, which cost from about $20 to $250. "Vendors are very accessible to the people coming to shop."

Creative composition

Ron Morgan, a prominent floral arranger and speaker from the San Francisco area, will be passing on his creativity and knowledge during two lectures at Pizzazz.

Morgan, who has entertained audiences for more than 20 years, composes his sophisticated arrangements using flowers, fruits, vegetables and other plants. He is known for taking ordinary elements of nature and transforming them in ways people couldn't imagine.

Morgan has worked in London and Sydney, Australia, designing window displays. In the San Francisco Bay area, he has opened several retail floral and antiques shops, and consulted as an interior designer. Morgan teaches many floral-arranging classes, and speaks at garden club events around the country.

Each lecture starts at 11 a.m., one Thursday and one Oct. 22. Admission is $20 to each. Pizzazz officials recommend pre-registration.

Details: (412) 781-4644.

-- Kellie B. Gormly Additional Information:

Details

Pizzazz

When: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 22

Special events:

  • Preview party, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday

  • 'Jazz at Pizzazz' cocktail party with live music from the Boilermakers, 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday

  • Ron Morgan, a renowned floral arranger from the San Francisco area, will give two lectures: 'Turn Over a New Leaf -- Fall Arrangements' at 11 a.m. Thursday, and 'Fruits and Vegetables: Off Your Plate and Into the Centerpiece' at 11 a.m. Oct. 22

  • Buffet luncheon, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Oct. 22

    Admission: $5 at the door each day. Tickets for the Preview Party range from $50 to $300, depending on level of sponsorship desired. The price covers admission to Pizzazz for both days. Jazz at Pizzazz costs $5, and a buffet lunch costs $25. Ron Morgan lectures each cost $20. Pre-registration recommended for lectures: call (412) 781-4644.

    Where: Fox Chapel Golf Club, 426 Fox Chapel Road off Route 28, Fox Chapel

    Details: (412) 963-8217

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