Ronda Swindell showed steely resolve Thursday, driving 13 hours from her home in Raleigh, N.C., to attend the semiannual All-Clad factory outlet sale.
She had to feed a habit as much as she had to feed family.
“I’m really sold on this cookware,” she said Friday morning, two hours into the two-day extravaganza at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
“Once you cook with some of it,” she continued, “you get hooked. It’s like an addiction. Like potato chips, you can’t buy just one.”
Swindell, who had made this drive for this reason before, was among a mass of buyers and browsers strolling the aisles inside the Expo Center. They came from near (Washington and Greene counties), far (Beaver Falls, Sewickley) and really far (Raleigh and more remote outposts).
More women than men were shopping, but not by much.
Don Turano, All-Clad vice president of marketing and sales, estimated that 5,000-plus customers would attend each day of the sale, which will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
The crowds were looking for pots, pans, skillets, toasters and dozens of other items, but more than anything, they were seeking deals on cooking-related items generally regarded as high quality and durable – and are favored by professional cooks.
Some were pushing large shopping carts, some compact carts, filled with boxes of cookware.
All-Clad Metalcrafters, headquartered in Cecil Township, has this “seconds sale” every June and December at the Chartiers Township site. The company displays items that are overstocked, have been discountinued or are considered irregular, and can be purchased at 30 to 70 percent off the regular price. All of it comes with an All-Clad warranty.
A Sewickley couple, Phyllis and Michael Lechmanik, are experienced outlet sale shoppers and devotees of the brand.
“The only thing I have in my house is All-Clad,” Phyllis said.
Michael said the “selection is remarkable” and praised the professionalism of the sales staff during Friday’s sale.
Not all of the Lechmaniks’ cookware is new, Phyllis said – but all of it is strong.
“Fifty years ago, my mother gave me my first All-Clad frying pan. I still have it.”
That couple, according to Turano, is among a mounting number of customers who are amassing All-Clad collections. So are Jennifer Poeschl of South Park and Paula Doebler of Sewickley.
“I think I’m ending up with all All-Clad,” said Poeschl, who was shopping with her mother and an aunt.
“I have a big collection,” Doebler said. “I’ve been buying for my children, and I’m buying for a godchild now.”
Paul Grossi of Beaver Falls said he is still learning about cookware, but was impressed by what he saw Friday and may purchase a full set at some point.
“I bought (an All-Clad) pot two years ago and I use it every day,” Grossi said. “It’s interesting seeing all the pots here. I want to buy it all.”
Despite the proximity to her Burgettstown home, Mary Jo Vallina was an All-Clad factory sale rookie Friday. She said she had heard positive things about the event and decided to go.
“You have a lot to pick from, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about the sale,” she said.
Vallina purchased a spaghetti pot and a few pieces that filled a gaping void.
“I had just bought a set of All-Clad,” Vallina said. “Then my kids went to college. One took a pot, one took a lid. You can buy a lid and not a pot here if you want, or a pot and not a lid.”
No one with All-Clad was certain how long these sales have been conducted, although a 33-year employee said they’ve existed during his entire tenure. The event started at the factory off Morganza Road, before moving briefly to The Meadows Racetrack – pre-casino – then to the fairgrounds.
“This is a phenomenal event,” Turano said. “It’s a great opportunity to sell products and interact with customers.”
An overwhelming crush of customers was a criticism of past factory sales, so All-Clad officials instituted measures for this event to ease the congestion. Instead of letting everyone enter as they please, the company allowed a limited number into the Expo Center, advising others to remain in a “holding area” next door, where food and entertainment were available.
“I think we had better traffic flow,” Turano said.
Doebler agreed that “it is less crowded.” but lamented that there was “a longer wait” at the checkout.
Still, she didn’t pan the pan-oriented event. Like so many others, she was a heavy metal fan on this day.