Cooks and bargain-hunters, grab your camping chairs and blankets. The All-Clad Metalcrafters seconds sale begins tomorrow.
Every year at this time, thousands of cooks drag themselves out of bed before the crack of dawn and set up camp at the Washington County Fairgrounds or at the Crate store in Scott, in search of deeply discounted pots, pans and kitchenware from All-Clad Metalcrafters, headquartered in Cecil.
Otherwise unaffordable for many, this famed cookware -- favored by celebrity chefs and amateurs alike -- is available for 40 percent to 70 percent off retail prices.
The two- and three-day seconds sales feature All-Clad cookware, bakeware and utensils that didn't quite make it to the shelves for a variety of reasons. Another sale is held every December.
With retail prices in the hundreds of dollars for individual items, such as $100 for a basic skillet or $635 for a chafing dish, each piece must be flawless with a brilliant silver or copper finish.
Those that display dings, scratches or other less obvious defects are reserved for the seconds sale.
"A lot of people will look and can't find what's wrong with the pan," said All-Clad Marketing/Communications Coordinator Melanie Tennant, who said she was unsure of how the faltering economy will affect sales.
Ms. Tennant said every piece manufactured by All-Clad will be available at the sale, although second-quality Emerilware -- made in conjunction with TV chef Emeril Lagasse -- will no longer be sold at the sale, because it is now being manufactured by an All-Clad sister company in New Jersey.
Since the sales began more than 15 years ago, shoppers have developed certain strategies to get the best pieces for the lowest price.
Many times, that involves camping out at the fairgrounds or Crate store hours before the sale begins.
Cooks from all 50 states have attended the seconds sales, some obsessively.
"We have people who plan their vacation around this," Ms. Tennant said.
Bakeware goes first, she warned.
Blogger and home chef Phil Romans has traveled the miles between his home in Baltimore, Md., and the local seconds sales in search of an All-Clad collection which he was able to amass in two visits. During his trips, he purchased at least $1,200 worth of cookware for about $700.
His blog includes advice and tips, and announcements of upcoming sales, mostly geared for out-of-towners. It's the most popular part of his Web Site, http://philslice.blogspot.com.
His advice is to become an educated consumer: Learn what the pieces are worth, know what you are looking for, and don't forget to factor in gas and possibly hotel prices to determine savings.
"If you're looking for a cheap tea kettle, it's not worth it, but if you're looking for a lot of things in a group, it's great," he said. "You should go in with a game plan."
Mr. Romans agreed that getting to the sale early isn't as important as being realistic and knowledgeable about the products. Don't expect to find very cheap merchandise, he said. Even with the discounts All-Clad is still quite pricey by typical cookware standards.
Some All-Clad fans have said part of the lure of the sale is its secretiveness. They say the company doesn't heavily advertise the sales, so it's always a challenge to prepare.
But, Ms. Tennant said the company does advertise with local media and sent out 23,000 postcards to customers on its mailing list to notify them.
This year, some of the proceeds from the sales will benefit the Jane and Carl Citron Chair in Colon Cancer at the University of Pittsburgh, which commemorates and celebrates late Pittsburgh chef and food writer Jane Citron's life and her battle against cancer by funding research in colon cancer treatments, prevention and early detection.
The sale is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Chartiers. The Crate sale will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at 1960 Greentree Road, Scott.
Cash, credit cards, and checks will be accepted.
Janice Crompton can be reached in care of firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-223-0156.