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BARGAINS / GERI COOK

Crystal-Clear Savings : Thousand Oaks shop offers fine gift ware from some of Europe's top factories.

March 17, 1995|GERI COOK

THOUSAND OAKS — A trip out here can bring you a touch of something almost Irish if you know where to go. No, you won't see the sights of the motherland, but the Irish Crystal Co. can provide good deals on fine European crystal--and only the sweetest bit of blarney.

Leonard McDonald started his retail operation about 12 years ago as a distributor for Tyrone Crystal, a manufacturer in Dungannon, Ireland. When Tyrone was purchased by Belleek, which makes pottery and china, McDonald's ties with Tyrone were severed, and he closed shop. But his love for fine crystal was deep, and he wanted to stay in the business. So he toured Europe's top factories to find crystal as good as the Irish product. Last fall, when he had sufficient inventory, he reopened at the same location in Thousand Oaks.

So the name and the proprietor's brogue are still Irish, but the merchandise now comes from Germany, France, Austria, former Yugoslavia and former Czechoslovakia, including Slovenia, which supplies much of the crystal sold in Harrods of London and many other fine stores around the world.

"Each country seems to have a product in which they excel," McDonald said. So you will find small crystal clocks from Germany, similar to those that Waterford sells for $85, on the shelves at the Irish Crystal Co. and priced at $30--with a lifetime warranty.

Also from Germany are some surprisingly lightweight giant-size water pitchers. Often I find that crystal water pitchers are so heavy that they are difficult to manage gracefully. But these, although full lead crystal, are of a thinner glass and therefore quite lightweight. They also are an excellent buy at $55.

Some stunning contemporary centerpieces, bowls and vases from France are copies of those made by a well-known French company that prices them from $600 to $800. These well-made knockoffs are $285.

If you need baby gifts, there's a wide selection of crystal blocks, rocking horses, rabbits, bootees, even a train. All are from Austria, beautifully gift-boxed, and they sell for $20.

I loved the champagne coolers from Germany that are similar to Waterford's Lismore pattern; these are very large, have crystal handles and are only $85. Waterford's version sells for $300.

A sideboard always looks a little better with a decanter on it, and these come in several patterns for $55. Compare them to Waterford versions for $180.

McDonald is picky about the crystal he buys: It must be mouth-blown, hand-cut and hand-polished or it doesn't make it into his store.

The inventory is basically gift ware. There is no stemware, although McDonald said he plans to carry it in the future.

Just for St. Patrick's Day weekend, the store is offering a special today and Saturday on two popular items. Biscuit barrels from former Czechoslovakia regularly sell for $58, but in honor of the holiday they are $25. And for $58 you can buy an 11-inch trifle bowl that usually sells for $98. How's that for the luck o' the Irish?

If you just want a bit of lively Gaelic conversation (in Limerick they call it "good crack"), make the trip to the Irish Crystal Co. Along with crystal bargains, you'll get a good show.

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life! Geri Cook can be heard from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.

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WHERE TO SHOP

What: The Irish Crystal Co.

Location: 1655 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Cards: No cards; cash or checks only.

Call: (805) 496-8363.

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