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Big toys for big boys ... and big girls: gifts for executives range from the functional to the frivolous.

WHAT'S THE WELL-heeled executive looking for in his stocking come Christmas Day?

There is always the down-to-earth, Adirondack-style tree house.

It's built of aromatic cedar, a 10-feet tall gazebo capable of seating eight that comes partially installed and includes video installation directions for the contractor of your choice.

True, it might be difficult to fit into a stocking, but at $5,000, why quibble over little details like that?

If that's too pricey, there's always the Victorian velocipede.

It is a three-wheeled sulky constructed of steel, complete with a wooden bench seat, leather reins to steer with and a cast polyester resin pony. The adult version of the child's toy costs only $2,400.

All right, you say your chairman of the board isn't the outdoors type.

How about treating your favorite executive to a New Year's Eve celebration in St. Petersburg.

Russia, not Florida.

For $3,750 per person, one can spend seven days and six nights touring historic establishments like the Hermitage Museum and Pushkin Palace. Or take in a performance of the Kirov Ballet.

All of these gifts can be found in the 1992 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, an essay of extravagance that arrives each year in time to threaten even the deepest of pockets.

While most of the offerings -- such as the $200 miniature shopping cart that comes complete with an array of epicurean delights -- aren't too extravagant, there are several that bring new meaning to the word "opulent."

For example, the handmade traditional Sioux tipi. Eighteen feet in diameter and capable of sleeping six to eight adults, it is constructed of hand-decorated canvas and 17 pine poles in the traditional Sioux manner.

Oh, it retails for $2,200.

"You can use it almost like a cabin out in the woods," says Carolyn Cobb, manager of public relations and promotions for the mail-order division of Neiman Marcus, a Dallas-based chain of specialty stores. "They're so well-made, the same company makes a lot for movie companies."

For the executive who never grew up, how about the 18-kt. gold Mini-Cub gauge electric train. The body of the 2 3/8-inch train and bins of the 1 1/4-inch cargo wagons are gold. The engine is inset with 190 diamonds.

The wagons are loaded down with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires. Created for Neiman Marcus by a Danish firm, the train set costs $100,000, but that includes 41 feet of track.

Sharper Image, the San Francisco-based chain of gift stores founded by Little Rock native Richard Thalheimer, has its fair share of innovative gifts produced with the executive in mind.

An electronic barometer produces digital readouts of the time, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and displays the forecast in graphic drawings.

It's a steal at $129.99.

"It's one of those pieces that really catches your eye," says Sara Wong, a spokeswoman for Sharper Image.

One of the company's more popular offerings, according to Wong, is the Sharp Wizard, a hand-held computer produced by Sharp Electronics Corp. The computer is no bigger than a small calculator, has a 256K memory and can be connected to an office PC via a modem to transfer data.

"That's a good executive gift for travelers, and it costs $499.95," Wong says.

A favorite of corporate administrators operating in stressful atmospheres is the Getaway Chair, a massage recliner covered in leather-like material that features rolling and vibrating massage as well as an AM-FM radio speaker system in the headrest.

The cost is a mere $1,995.

"The technology in |the chair~ is real state of the art," Wong says. "You could put it in your living room. It doesn't look like one of those medical massage chairs."

Power Shopping

Those who prefer hands-on Christmas shopping need look no further than Little Rock's Design Center and Et Cetera, a pair of Heights gift stores that cater to the unique and innovative side of gift-giving.

For instance, the Design Center carries many items that at first appear to serve a necessary purpose but are in actuality toys for men and women who occasionally revert to adolescence.

For $28, there's the Executive Stress Breaker, a desk accessory featuring a battery-powered locomotive that travels a foot-long length of track accompanied by authentic bell and whistle noises.

"You can put paper clips in it and there's a place for pens and pencils, so it's utilitarian," says Susan Pfeifer, the store's owner.

For the baseball enthusiast with a sense of humor, leather manufacturer Spinneybeck has produced a line of baseballs and softballs, all regulation size, in a variety of colors.

The baseballs run $20, the softballs $22, while a rack capable of holding six of the colorful orbs costs $16.

A travel shaver -- "It comes with shaving cream in it," Pfeifer says. "It's good for up to 10 shaves and then you throw it away." -- retails for $6.50, while a creatively shaped toothbrush produced by designer Phillipe Starck retails for $12.

Pfeifer's store is also the state's only distributor of the Hat Trick Chair, a designer seat built of bentwood maple and inspired by, of all things, apple crates.

The simplistic, back-to-basics chairs, comfortable although bereft of any padding, sell for $560 -- $670 if you want arms.

"That's not expensive for a chair," Pfeifer says. "The design is as important as being a functional chair. It's a design statement."

Et Cetera, meanwhile, has the perfect gift for an executive with an equestrian streak: a Baccarat horse. The noble hand-blown steed costs less than a racehorse, $1,625, but more than your average mule.

For those with a taste for geography, Et Cetera has a foot-tall crystal globe priced at $800. Produced by Astral, the globe is "like Waterford, but it's a lot less expensive," says LaDonna Cleveland, the store's manager.

The store's Christmas Room, a year-round display of anything and everything related to the holiday, presents the shopper with a challenge: How many Old World ornaments ($2.50-$20) can my tree hold, and if I buy one of the M.E. Duncan Old World Santas ($80-$300), can I still afford one of the Snowbabies statuettes ($8-$25)?

The Christmas season is one of difficult choices. Who to buy for? Who to pass on? How much to spend on the gifts?

But with choices such as the crystal globe or Victorian velocipede, there is only one question for the shopper: How long will my Gold Card be able to withstand the strain?
COPYRIGHT 1992 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:items sold by gift shops in Little Rock, Arkansas
Author:Taylor, Tim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Dec 7, 1992
Words:1075
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