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Food for Thought

Retailers partied it up this week for very different reasons.

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Retailers partied it up this week for very different reasons. The Jaffe family of Dress Barn was honored at the Food Allergy Ball at Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria, while Saks Fifth Avenue staged a thank-you lunch for designers and the media who supported a season of gains.

The Food Allergy Ball on Monday drew 1,000 guests and raised a record $5 million to benefit the Food Allergy Initiative's research and educational activities to combat life-threatening food allergies.

"My four kids are all allergic to peanuts and tree nuts," said David Jaffe, Dress Barn Inc.'s chief executive officer. Jaffe's brother Richard, a retail analyst with Stifel Nicholas, also has a child with the allergy. "This is a problem that continues to grow," David observed. "Incidences are on the rise."

The Jaffes founded the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and are a founding family of the FAI. "Ten years ago, when we started FAI, there was very little publicity or awareness of this problem," Jaffe noted.

Also honored were Frank W. Bruno, president, Cerberus Global Investment Advisors LLC, as well as Jacques Pépin, Alain Sailhac and André Soltner of the French Culinary Institute.

On Tuesday, Saks barricaded and darkened off a section of its second floor to dish out the traditional holiday chicken potpies. But it seemed skipping town for the holidays was the order of the day, even for those who usually don't. "I absolutely love Christmas, but it's really hard to enjoy it when you're in this business," said Josie Natori. Despite the rigors of creating a collection, she's taking off for two weeks to Turks and Caicos and the Philippines.

"Every year we go someplace different, either a warm spot or a cold one," said Saks Inc. chairman and ceo Stephen I. Sadove. This time around, it's Cabo San Lucas for six days.

Suzanne Johnson, general manager of the Saks flagship, plans to meet her four sisters at Canyon Ranch in Arizona. Aside from all the pampering, "Hopefully, we'll do a lot of hiking."

"I love decorating for the holiday and love baking people gifts," said Zac Posen. He'll be hitting the ski slopes in Colorado, and hitting them hard. "I'm totally competitive."