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  • Belles In Biz: Kelly Plank-Dworkin of SWOOZIES

    Sep 3, 2015 CATEGORIES: Belles in Biz, Swoozies


    It’s time that all Gridiron Belles be introduced (if you haven’t been already) to Swoozies. It is THE one stop shop for all things celebratory. From baby announcements to birthday parties; from backyard BBQ supplies to Christmas decorations; from bachelorette party favors to our favorite… tailgate must-haves.  Walking into a Swoozies location (9 across the south– and Colorado), is like walking into a fairytale where all of your hosting, gifting, and celebrating dreams come true.  

    I’ve been a fan of Swoozies since 2011 when I won my first tailgating contest with them. Then Gridiron Belles partnered up with “The Swoo”  for a book tour and endless book signings. So you’ve probably seen me mention them a time or two by name.  But in case you’ve been sleeping, or are just joining us, today’s feature is on the Belle Behind the Biz, Ms. Kelly Plank-Dworkin who is the fearless leader of making the magic happen.

    Note:  Kelly is so humble in her accomplishments and thankful for her team,  that she opted out of solo shots for the post and only included ones of her team.  She also offered to do a “Swoozie Up Your Tailgate” Giveaway with $100.00 to use for one of our lucky readers’ next tailgate party. (See below for details). 

    Enough already, let’s meet Kelly!

    Name: Kelly Plank-Dworkin

    SEC Team: Alabama

    Name of Your Biz: Swoozie’s

    Explanation of Your Biz: Swoozie’s is a destination specialty store for gifts, party décor, invitations and personalized gifts and more. The company was founded on a few basic fundamentals – brilliant product, personalization that sets the standard, outstanding customer care, and giving back to our communities.

    How did you get your start? I was very blessed in my career to work for some of the best minds in the retail business who are still making waves and doing brilliant things 40 years later. I started in retail at a young age and fell in love with the ability to work creatively, statistically and with people. It is because of my early experience that I had the foundation and opportunity to start my own company.   David, my late-husband, and I opened up the first Swoozies in February 2001.

    So tell us, what exactly is your role?

    For almost 15 years I have been leading the merchandising assortment and marketing.  While my title is technically the president (and the visionary), I have always had a brilliant team that I get to work with to support the vision David and I had.  There is a wonderful group of women that work at Swoozies and we love our customers—the Swoozies community has become my family.

    Most challenging part of your job?

    Often times our biggest challenges and weaknesses are our biggest rewards and strengths.

    In my business, our customers are our biggest challenge and our biggest reward. Each time a customer comes into the store, I want them to have a flawless experience: find the perfect gift they were looking for, connect with our staff and stay with us through all of life’s moments and celebrations. Sometimes we make a mistake though, and those hurt. I hate to hear of any customer that is disappointed. I do, however, see every single comment online and take the time to review them with the team. Those moments make us better and we learn from them.

    Most rewarding?

    Learning how to be a better company is what makes makes our relationships with our customers the most rewarding part of my job. We wouldn’t be here almost 15 years later, growing, if it weren’t for the loyal customers – the people that we get to help everyday.

    What is one thing your biz would not survive without?

    Customer feedback – we listen to feedback and react to it daily.

    What’s next?

    Continue to drive and lead our recent merger with Beau-coup.

    Work-life balance, fact or fiction?

    Everyone has their own interpretation of what that balance is for them. I may not have it to other people, but I have a mission and so much of my life is my work. I like to believe fact.

    Business/career advice to other Belles?

    Work hard. Trust your gut. Never stop learning. Surround yourself with smart people – and kind people.

    Favorite part about being an Alabama fan?

    I was not always an Alabama fan, but when my son went there, I quickly drank the Crimson Tide Kool-Aid. The energy of that stadium and not to mention the years he was there were some of the very best – there was no way I couldn’t be a fan. I have some wonderful memories of those games with my kids.

    Favorite tailgate dish?

    I love everything about a tailgate. Not just one dish – it is the combination of all the dishes that make a tailgate so fun. Being able to sit outside, relax, hang out with friends and graze all day is my perfect Saturday. If I had to pick though, I love a great layered dip.

    Game day drink of choice?


    What do you always have in your touch down purse?

    My lipstick

    Coach Crush?

    Pete Carroll (my girls went to USC)

    Heads or Tails?



    Enter to win $100 to “Swoozie Up Your Tailgate” ! 

    Here is how you win:

    1) Must follow @GridironBelles on either Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

    2) Tag @Swoozies and  3 friends who you think would also enjoy this giveaway!

    3) Winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, September 9. GOOD LUCK!

    Stay in Touch With Swoozies:  Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

  • Season is upon us. Finally.

    Aug 14, 2013 CATEGORIES: Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, SEC, SEC Football, Southern Belles, Southern Football, Southern Tailgating, Swoozies, Tailgating

    It’s time.

    Season is upon us. Finally.  If you haven’t started stocking up on your game day needs, there is no time like the present.

    SEC tailgates are not just thrown together at the last minute.  Southern tailgates practically gave Pinterest their beginning material and have been providing quality content ever since.

    Depending on the day, we can DIY with the best of them.  But we also understand that knowing where to purchase the best pre-made/assembled items is an equally valuable skill to have.  So … we are breaking down your tailgate in a series of must-have options. Some will be for purchase, some will be for creating. A true Gridiron Belle is skilled at both.

    We’ve started here with napkins, towels, and cups to add some flare to your table. Thankfully, there is a store called Swoozies that has mastered the art of tailgating décor, so most of our favorites for this week have come from their tailgate section. We think you’ll like them as much as we do!

    We think football interrupts just about every relationship… details about these gems of napkins here!

    Everyone’s emerald city is different.  Click your ruby red slippers, pick up these napkins and follow your yellow brick road to the next tailgate!

    For the more environmentally friendly fan, try these recycled cocktail napkins in your team’s logo for a rustic-chic look. 

    Decorate the bar or just put this hand towel out for show.  This keeps your team spirit classy and functional.

    Option number two for functional class. Can’t go wrong with a football-clad tea towel!


    If you’re trying to elevate the elegance of your plastic cups, just add a stem! Be sure to order enough for all of your guests!

    You’re easy to please, football, TV, and beer. Is there anything better on Saturdays in the fall? Nope. 

    Happy Tailgate Prepping!

    “Xs and Os,”

    Christie Leigh

  • Gridiron Belles Weekend of Events

    Oct 3, 2012 CATEGORIES: Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie, Lilly Pulitzer and Gridiron Belles, SEC Football, South Carolina, Southern Football, Swoozies

    Gridiron Belles has a busy weekend ahead, join us where you can!

    The 2012 Gridiron Belles Tailgate Tour is well on its way .  After a first time experience in College Station last weekend, we are now headed east to Carolina for some top-ranked football, and of course, tailgating!

    Gridiron Belles Weekend of Events:

    Thursday:  Swoozies event in Greenville, SC 6pm.  We’ll be serving Mint Juleps (our favorite!) and having some giveaways.

    Friday: Pink Sorbet Signing in Columbia, SC 12-5pm.  Pink Sorbet is a Lilly Pulitzer via store, so come on in for a game day dress, get a book signed and enjoy a Friday afternoon in Columbia!

    Saturday: Gridiron Belles is going to be with SoLeague and Olly Oxen as they tailgate from 12- kickoff before the UGA v USC game! Look for the SoLeague and Olly Oxen flags flying in the Fairgrounds lot!

    Don’t forget to tell us where you’ll be this weekend and send in your Belles of the game photos to!

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh

  • Starting and Ending Duck Season (A week or so late…)

    Sep 13, 2011 CATEGORIES: Gridiron Belles Tour, LSU, SEC, SEC Football, SEC Stadium Tour, Swoozies

    When I initially put the LSU v Oregon game on my schedule I thought I maybe made the wrong decision by not kicking off my tour in an SEC town. However, Arlington, TX—“Jerry World” no less—proved to be the perfect backdrop for and early start to duck hunting season as the LSU Tigers defeated the Oregon Ducks 40-27.

    The LSU faithful didn’t mind if they were missing a quarterback or a few other starters.  The purple and gold diehards didn’t mind that they were in Big 12 country. The fans of the fighting tigers were jubilant about debuting their purple and gold for the season opener and the victory on the field was second only to the victory at the tailgates.

    A few examples:

    Ben, the delightful and ever so spirited LSU fan!

    Ben, from New Orleans, was exactly what you expect an LSU fan from New Orleans to be.  Up early, heavily influenced by bourbon, wearing gold and proclaiming a season of victory by his team, all while being a perfect gentleman and hosting the Swoozies and Gridiron Belles.  The Gridiron Tour team had never been more entertained.  I think he even sold a few books for us!

    The lovely hosts of a wonderful tailgate (Julee on left, Jim on far right)

    Jim, a LSU extraordinaire from Pensacola, FL and Julee a LSU fan from Dallas, hosted a tailgate of 500 plus people in the middle of a field. Surrounded by fencing. Protected by security.  Yes, law enforcement was needed to protect the perfectly cooked jambalaya and copious amounts of free flowing purple and gold Budweiser.

    I was forced to wear Jim's LSU hat and had to promise to come see a "real LSU tailgate" in Baton Rouge!

    I was assured time and time again that this particular displaced tailgate was calm and that if I wanted to really be wowed, I needed to find Jim and his 500 friends again near the Mounds in Baton Rouge.  If this was tame, I suppose the SWAT team will be in Baton Rouge.

    Jason? Is that you?

    Then there was Jason.  The blind date from Atlanta. Our mutual friends told us about one another and it was clearly romantic destiny if we were both in Texas for the LSU game.  E-mails and numbers were exchanged ahead of time.  Facebook pages were stalked.  We were going to meet up to express our love for college football.  A marriage engagement was clearly pending. And then it happened.   Cell phone service went iffy at best.  Texts went unanswered. Time was slipping away.

    Finally, an update from Jason. “ We are now in Lot 5 right near the stadium.  Next to some boisterous LSU fans.  I’m wearing purple.” Ahhh, his usage of the adjective “boisterous” tells me he’s smart, but his overall message tells me the common sense wagon passed him by…    Being near the stadium, next to drunk and loud LSU fans while wearing purple was the same situation for 93,164 people that day!  How was I supposed to find prince charming with those directions?  And before the National Anthem!?  Again, I am promised a better time and “first date” in Baton Rouge for the Auburn game.  I hope he makes it easier next time and tells me he’s “ wearing an LSU hat and taunting Auburn fans.”

    A full day of tailgating with (and without)  some of the most enthusiastic fans in the land challenged my endurance.  However, one sound of the band, one cheer of the crowd and the first National Anthem of the season, kickoff had never felt so rich as I got comfortable in my seat and ready to watch the Fighting Tigers of the SEC start and end duck season.

    Geaux Tigers!

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh




  • Swoozies and Gridiron Bells

    Aug 28, 2011 CATEGORIES: LSU, SEC Football, SEC Stadium Tour, Southern Belles, Southern Women, Swoozies

    Swoozies Photo Shoot!

    Two years ago, my dear friend and loyal Southerner, Lauren Bordelon, recommended that I submit “my story” to Swoozies.  Having never steered me wrong before, I listened to Lauren and submitted my story about my love of tailgating to Swoozies to be on the cover of their fall catalogue. Lucky for me, I was chosen!

    Swoozies treated me to a weekend in Atlanta, a photo shoot with photographer Margaret Lemke and a tour of their anchor store in Buckhead. For those of you unfamiliar with Swoozies, it’s a Southern Belle’s dream come true.  From theme party decor and ideas to delicate and timeless stationary, Swoozies has all of your needs covered for being the proper-theme-party-socialite you are!

    Fast forward two years and one completed book later and voila! Swoozies and Gridiron Belles are teaming up to hit the road this fall.

    Learn more about on the latest Swoozies blog and keep an eye out for their feature article about Gridiron Belles next week.  Because, if we didn’t already tell you, we really want to see you at our tailgates this fall!

    Xs and Os,

    Christie Leigh