For shoppers like Marion Zamotin, still leery about a weak economy and cautious of paying full retail prices, bazaars are an opportunity to save money.
“A good deal is a good deal,” Zamotin said.
A staple of autumn in many cities across the United States, bazaars, rummage sales and similar festivals signal the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
Shoppers load up on handmade ornaments, dolls and homemade baked goods that help their wallets, while organizers raise money for charities, community churches, synagogues and schools.
“I enjoy the product mix. They have everything from tablecloths, skirts, jewelry, Judaic items. Stuff for everyone,” said Sandy Samole, a regular at Young Israel Bazaar of Kendall. “It’s great to buy items, but I love to help out these institutions.”
The Young Israel Holiday Bazaar has been around for six years, helping fund youth outreach classes and member activities from the profits.
Eddie Ferenzi, vice president of the Senegal, said it’s his duty to help.
Jackie Wise, one of the Senegal members, organizes the bazaar, which hosts vendors such as Hello Doily that sells handmade tablecloths and Allstarts Auction that boasts a collection of autographed athlete photos and baseball cards.
Other bazaar regulars simply enjoy the great finds.
“I love antiques, and I like looking for the special stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” said Lili Knox, who attends the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church bazaar. “I love to collect baskets and bottles.”
Miami Shores Presbyterian has been hosting its Fall Festival for seven years. Each year, teachers and staff bake pastries and sell $2 hotdogs. Students organize costume and pumpkin-decorating contests.
“It’s not always about making money,” said member Jean Stefanick. “It’s a community spirit.”
But it’s more than community spirit. The bazaar generates an average yearly profit of $10,000. Proceeds benefit the church’s own Presbyterian preschool and elementary school.
Along with the festival, volunteers run a pumpkin patch from noon until 7 p.m. through Oct. 31. Teachers and parents help unload the truck of 5,000 New Mexico pumpkins and set up the event.
During the fall indoor garage sale at Palm Springs United Methodist Church in Hialeah, “people come in like clockwork,” said Nancy Perez, who has organized the event since 1986.
For some of their bazaar regulars, the sales aren’t the only incentive.
“They have nice stuff. It’s used, but it’s great; there’s a great variety, and there’s great people,” said Patsy Belia. “I’ve made friends with Nancy Perez, and so many other women, very nice people.”
Perez said many women who live alone come early just to strike up conversation.
During the autumn sale held early October, shoppers browsed bedding, home decor and unused designer clothing priced from 10 cents to $10.
Each event generates an average of $6,000, said the Rev. Robert Ladner, senior pastor at the Palm Springs church. Ladner said he uses some of the money for Boy and Girl Scout clubs and the rest for the church’s nonprofit preschool, God’s Place 4 Kids.
Schools such as Country Day in Miami Shores also have had success in their annual sales. Created by the Parent Teacher Student Association 14 years ago, the community works together to collect more than $50,000 annually.
“It’s the largest bazaar in the Miami-Dade area,” said PTSA president Perri Pollack. “We’ve been working since it ended last year.”
The proceeds go toward school activities such as the athletic booster program, the technology program and the annual Walk for Cancer event Oct. 24.
The bazaar makes money from vendors such as L Designs and Twinkle, companies that specialize in women’s and children’s clothing and jewelry. Some booths also sell stationery and sports memorabilia.
Valet parking is available for customers.
In food alone, they rake in about $20,000, offering a sampling of dishes from sushi to salads. The PTSA and vendors such as Here Comes the Sun, Houston and Bella Luna help cook.
Vendors don’t have to put any money up front for space but must contribute 18 percent of their earnings from the sale.
The Fairchild Tropical Garden annual Ramble has grown over 70 years to become South Florida’s larget plant sale. It now generates about $100,000 a year.
Jeanne Aragon, a regular customer since 1979, said, “It is one of the best things happening in South Florida. I like the ambience, the plant sales and looking at the vendors and sitting there in the main lawn and having lunch and enjoying the garden and seeing there everyone around.”