Pamela Jane Zarzano credits her new and improved personality to flamingos. “I used to be introverted,” she says, “but that’s impossible when you’re around flamingos.” To see Zarzano wearing her “Flamingo Lady” outfit—pink dress, sunglasses and pocketbook—in her flamingo-festooned living room in Midland, Texas, is to conclude that, yep, she has just about won her battle with shyness.
Not only is Zarzano in the pink, she’s also in the black, thanks to uptownflamingo.com, the Web site she started in May 1999 to cater to the needs of serious collectors like “Washington, D.C., lawyer Karen Petronis, 42, who raves, “P.J. always has something I salivate over. I save up my nickels.” All those nickels allow Zarzano to feather her nest—with sales of $200,000 last year. Although yard birds are her top seller, she also offers everything from stick-on tattoos to original paintings, some priced as high as $2,500. But you do have to like flamingos.
Recently divorced and the mother of Gina, 20, and Sandy, 19, Zarzano heard the call of the wild when she was a teen growing up in Columbus, Ohio. The fanciful fowl, she says, “just fascinated me. You can’t look at a flamingo and not smile.” She hopes her new neighbors—she moved into her current house in December—share her sense of humor. Come Christmas, she’ll decorate her home with a flamingo-drawn sleigh for Santa and other flamingo-themed decorations. “I’ll try,” she says, “not to get too tacky.”