Year after year, the Garden Club of Allegheny County's PIZZAZZ Pittsburgh boutique shopping benefit attracts locals with its one-of-a-kind lineup of vendors at the Fox Chapel Golf Club.
"We try to bring a unique shopping experience to the city with merchants who the community otherwise couldn't purchase goods from unless they went online," says co-chair Mardi Royston.
What keeps families coming back is the promise of old favorites, combined with something new and fresh. This year, grab-and-go bouquets inspired by French floral markets, home goods that help fight poverty in Haiti and handbags designed with the toughness of America's military in mind are some of the additions to PIZZAZZ's proven list of boutique participants.
The event begins Wednesday evening with a preview party and runs through Friday. A percentage of vendors' gross sales support the garden club, which provides grants to environmental projects throughout the region. To date, PIZZAZZ has raised nearly $1 million.
About 30 vendors -- half new, half veterans -- make up this year's event. Organizers scour similar benefits and trunk shows in other cities to curate the boutiques for PIZZAZZ, but word of mouth also helps.
"The vendors talk among each other so we get contacted from vendors who want to be part of our shows because they've heard so much about it," Ms. Royston said.
Some of this year's highlights include the PIZZAZZ premieres of 1000 Jobs Haiti and The Carson Bag. The former creates jobs for Haitian women, who help make the cards, pillows, towels, bags, jewelry and other items the vendor sells. Patricia Smith of East Haddam, Conn., started The Carson Bag collection of colorful carryalls and duffels as a way to convert her anxiety into something constructive as her son served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bags are sturdy and practical, a nod to the durability and strength needed to serve in the U.S. military.
For shoppers with a sweet tooth, Blissful Brownies will make its debut. Founded by a Chicago lawyer-turned-cook, it's known for fudgy brownies and other confections such as lemon bars, English toffee and chocolate spreads. The garden club also will introduce Fleurs, a booth offering French-style bouquets arranged by club members.
Another addition will be a one-hour demonstration 9:30 a.m. Friday with Gaynor Grant of Gaynor's School of Cooking on the South Side. Ms. Grant will lead a presentation about entertaining with ease. It's free to PIZZAZZ ticketholders, but reservations are required because of limited seating.
Popular vendors returning this year include Creme de la Creme (linens, home goods, gifts and accessories), Mr. Charles Shop (contemporary clothes and accessories), Velvet Road (embroidered footwear from around the world), Three Sisters (homemade cheese straws) and Bird Dog Bay (neckwear and accessories for men). The Garden Club of Allegheny County also will bring back its Timeless Treasures booth of antiques from Pittsburgh homes.
"We like to think of this as an opportunity to kick off your holiday shopping," Ms. Royston said. "If you can shop for the holidays and know that a percentage of what you spend is coming back to conservation efforts in your own community, then it's kind of a win-win."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @SaraB_PG. First Published October 14, 2013 8:00 PM