- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) - Leonard E. “Lenny” Sasso meticulously arranged the clothes and props in the front window of a men’s apparel store in Greensburg, dressing mannequins and using props to promote the merchandise, just as he has done for more than a half-century.

“The merchandise is the star of the window. You can’t let the weeds (props) overpower the star. We’re embellishing what he (the store owner) has,” said Sasso, 80, of Braddock Hills, as he plied his craft in the front window of Lapels, A Fine Men’s Clothier, on South Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sasso, who is semi-retired, has been working with Lapels owner Kevin Miscik since he opened the clothing store 12 years ago.

“He’s been with me since day one,” Miscik said as he handed Sasso the clothing and props.

Last week, Sasso took pants, shirts, belts, shoes and cologne that Miscik wanted to display for the store’s summer theme, and dressed four clothing forms.



Armed with a small wooden hammer in his back pocket and straight pins piercing his front pocket, he attached shirts and pants to the forms and arranged the props to complete the theme, adding sea shells, a lantern and a plastic palm tree.

“We’re preparing for an island party,” Miscik said.

The design did not happen overnight.

Miscik said he and Sasso can spend weeks collaborating on a design and theme, depending on the season. Miscik selects merchandise he wants to feature, and the window designer has to arrange it so that it sells, Sasso said.

“He has to get the message across and reflect the season. He sees it from the artist’s point of view, that they (design and merchandise) are appealing and are in line with the look I want and he wants,” Miscik said.

Rather than sketching out a design on paper before putting the display together, Sasso said he keeps his idea of the design he wants to create “in my head.”

“The whole thing is like writing a song. You have all the notes. It’s how you arrange them to make a beautiful song,” Sasso said.

Sasso’s ability to design the window display and highlight the merchandise is “a lost art,” Miscik said, an art that is not as appreciated as it once was.

“Other stores are going in a different direction. A lot of stores are doing away with the display as an art and it shows,” Miscik said.

Sasso started in the business in the late 1950s with his uncle, James Mastro, who taught the Westinghouse High School graduate the trade he has practiced all his adult life. He was living in East Liberty, working construction jobs, when he decided it was a time for a change in careers. Although he had no formal training in how to present merchandise for retail sale, Mastro said he developed a flair for art through classes at the Carnegie Museum in Oakland.

At the time, Pittsburgh had three major department stores - Joseph Horne Co., Kaufmann’s and Gimbels - all of which had their own staffs of window dressers, Sasso said.

The big department stores did not need their services, so Sasso and his uncle went after the business in towns throughout Western Pennsylvania - such as Latrobe, Charleroi, Ellwood City and Beaver Falls - which still had thriving business districts filled with independently owned stores, Sasso said.

“We together did all the mom and pop stores all over the tristate area,” Sasso said.

When Sasso struck out on his own in the 1970s, he continued to travel the region to work at various stores, creating his window displays.

He said one of the keys to a good design is to keep it simple.

“You have to know when you have to stop,” he said.

The front window display is important to a business like Lapels, Miscik said.

“It sells for us 24 hours a day. We call it our silent salesman,” he said

___

Online: https://bit.ly/1Hq2DAC

___

Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, https://pghtrib.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide