Frat Party

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Frat Party

Cigar aficionados and martini mavens hobnob on special shopping nights for men

T he way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but good cigars and smooth drinks never hurt either. Sexist and archaic? Perhaps. But retailers who pamper their male clients on special shopping nights find such old-boy favorites still win the hearts of husbands young and old.

Retailers generally schedule men's events on weeknights just before or during the holiday seasons, when clients are particularly stressed and need an after-work "happy hour" to wind down. Colleen Rafferty of Christensen & Rafferty in San Mateo, CA, sends 200 to 300 invitations to her store's "Tea & Martini" night. She and her business partner, Diane Christensen, hand-pick many of the invited customers from "wish lists" the wives and girlfriends fill out and sometimes follow the mailings with phone calls. From the few hundred invitations, a manageable 10 people may attend the event. "We end up serving two cups of tea and lots of martinis," says Rafferty. "One client noted his martini cost only $2,000!"

The men who attend usually are familiar with the store and almost always arrive ready to buy. "If they don't buy that night, they'll usually come back in a few days," Rafferty says. The invitations alone are good for reminding men they need to go shopping; a few days after the mail goes out, the store gets quite a few calls for appointments.

Meanwhile, the gentlemen's smoking nights at Asanti Fine Jewelers in San Mateo, CA, have become such a place-to-be-seen the store has had to limit the number of clients who attend. For the first five years of the event, held at the end of October, the store would entertain about 150 men at the nearby Ritz-Carlton, providing fine cigars, single malt scotch and a spread of hors d'oeuvres. Asanti brought its entire line of jewelry and gave $500 gift certificates to guests for use with items above a certain price. Many of the men knew each other from the community and treated the nights as giant social events.

The night got expensive and unwieldy, so now Asanti makes the event more exclusive, still sending formal engraved invitations but charging $100 per person (though attendees get 25% off any purchase that evening). "This worked out for our most serious buyers; we had 42 guys this year," says Michael Merritt of Asanti.

Need extra convincing that boys will always be boys? Merritt says the men especially love the five women in black catsuits who circulate through the room to model the jewelry and chat up the customers. "The men have fun flirting with the girls, drinking their cocktails, seeing their comrades," he says. "I've had men tell me they'd pay to come to this event even if they didn't have to shop."

– by Stacey King



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


 

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