Montclair Magazine Holiday 2021 - Page 31

AVIEW FROM THE TOP To keep her floral designs for awedding at Manhattan ’ s fabled Rainbow Room fresh , Merritt rented arefrigerated truck .
COURTESY OF CHRISTINE GATTI
designed by the professionals at Faubourg and a sophisticated sound and lighting system .
As a consultant , she leverages the hospitality skills she ’ s been honing since she was a college freshman , and in the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland tradition , decided to put on a show with a classmate — in super-splashy South Beach .
A SPECIALTY IN SPECIAL EVENTS
At the University of Miami , the drama department ’ s class assignment called for students to plan a summer theater season . Inspired by the idea of creating a musical , Merritt and a classmate decided to turn the homework into a real-life project for the following summer . “ At 19 , we commissioned an original musical for a fundraiser for the LGBTQ community center ,” she says . “ We hired a cast of 16 and sold sponsorships and tickets through Ticketmaster . I wasn ’ t old enough to drink .”
She transferred to the University of South Florida in Tampa , she says , because the school ’ s campus activity board had a $ 250,000 budget .
Merritt booked shows featuring Billy Joel and Norm McDonald , and an event called Midnight Madness in a 20,000-seat arena .
“ Jesse Jackson was coming to campus on that date , he was looking for a venue where he could speak , and there was a spot open before Carrot Top ,” says Merritt . “ My advisor said , ‘ Are you crazy ?’ but I said ‘ There ’ ll be aton of kids there !’”
During her senior year , Merritt brought in a hypnotist with connections to Empire Entertainment in New York . After she graduated and got a job there , “ We booked anyone from a River Dance knockoff to Jerry Seinfeld ,” she says .
At WKTU Radio —“ The Beat of New York ” — Merritt handled the station ’ s “ Miracle on 34th Street ” production in 1999 , its inaugural year . “ I was responsible for Jennifer Lopez , Cher , Bette Midler and Destiny ’ s Child — with the future Beyoncé ,” she says .
The station ’ s location in the Garment District made it easy for her to hit up clothing sample sales , and her husband , TV production
executive Andy Singer , joked that she should start a shopping tour company . Merritt took his idea and ran with it , launching Shop Gotham in 2001 . It was covered inThe New York Times , Miami Herald and other outlets ; the company ’ s website currently bills itself as “ NYC ’ s premiere shopping tour company ” for visitors to the city .
Singer got ajob at HGTV and the family moved to Knoxville , Tennessee . Merritt found a floral wholesaler in the city where she enjoyed lingering and soaking up the owner ’ s advice . “ I ’ ve always loved flowers ,” she says . “ Even when I had no money , I ’ d go to the flower district in New York and haggle over flowers for parties .” Her new focus on floral design was more familyfriendly , a happy transition given that her husband traveled frequently and the couple had a baby , with another on the way . While in Tennessee , Merritt contributed the floral displays for a 200-person fundraising event on behalf of the Knoxville Jewish Day School .
Then Singer became general
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