Alex Kozak, creator of Yappin' Yinzers

Alex Kozak, creator of Yappin' Yinzers

Yinz guys ‘member at one time we had that ad up for Yappin Yinzers ‘n nat? Guy at makes ’em (Alex Kozak) called and said “watch yinz guys doin? hows abaht comin’ uppa Skiwrl Cage ‘n grabbin an eyrn?” and we was like “You ain’t see Joe Denardo? He sed it was partly clahdy n ge’ttin slippy aht, we was abaht to run up to Jine Eegoals to get some rock salt. hahs baht we meet dahn the street for some coffee.”

Jagoff said “I ain’t gonna meet yinz for no coffee” but then he was like dabby ok I guess.

We was pretty pshyched to be taahkin to da guy who makes all em tiny picksbergers and he let us know all abaht the bisness ‘n nat since we were all nebby baht it. We’re exspeshully jazzed baht the histery anna future of ‘ohs liddle guys. Real excited – jus like a night before kayywood ‘n nat! Here goes what he yakked about:

What is your Pittsburgh background?

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh and currently reside here. I’m a graduate of Bethel Park High School and Duquesne University. I spent a couple of years living in London and have been fortunate enough to do quite a bit of international travel, but I can say that there is no place like home – I continue to be drawn to this city.

What exactly are Yappin’ Yinzers?

Yappin’ Yinzers are talking plush dolls that speak Pittsburghese. You can find both “Chipped Ham Sam” and “Nebby Debbie” at our website and at retailers throughout the area.

How did you come up with the idea?

Early in my professional career I spent three years working on a consulting engagement in Madison, Wisconsin. I was trying to explain the concept of a “yinzer” to some of my local colleagues there. After giving the typical explanation (blue collar, mullet, etc), visiting a few websites, and doing my best Pittsburghese impression, I realized the need for a tangible product that embodies the personality and dialect of the quintessential Pittsburgher. I hear and see references to Pittsburghese and Yinzers all throughout the local media and around the office water cooler, but I could not find an ideal product that truly captures the spirit of these concepts. That’s when Yappin’ Yinzers was born.

Are the characters based on people you actually know in Pittsburgh?

Not in particular – you might say that each character represents a collection of the best bits of yinzer from any number of people I’ve encountered during my years here. Although my father swears that he’s seen Chipped Ham Sam in South Park. Perhaps – I’ve seen quite a few Camaros in the area.

Do you talk like a yinzer or speak Pittsburghese on a daily basis?

Not fluently but without question the occasional “dahn” and “aht” will slip into to my lexicon…

Has anyone ever taken offense to Yappin’ Yinzers?

On the very rare occasion. I find that most people easily see the humor and actually tend to take pride in our take on the language. I had the opportunity to speak with Virginia Montanez of Pittsburgh Magazine on the subject.

Where is the farthest you’ve ever shipped one?

We have shipped the dolls all over the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. Although I would say that Iraq is probably the farthest they have been. If you visit the photo gallery portion of our site, you’ll find pictures of Sam hanging out at Saddam’s former palace and watching the Super Bowl with the troops.

Are Yappin’ Yinzers sold in stores or exclusively on your website?

You’ll find the dolls online at our website and in a number of retail stores throughout the area including spots like Mike Feinburg’s in the Strip and the Heinz History Center gift shop. There’s even a store on Hilton Head Island that has the dolls in stock – Celebration Supplies – because of the large number of Pittsburghers that visit or who are now living there.

So you accept wholesale orders for resellers?

I’m always interest in finding new outlets for the dolls and do indeed have a program for resale partners.

Do you have any plans for a new character?

Well, at the moment I’m focused on diversifying the line with the introduction of our first official t-shirt, “Pittsburgh Happy Ahr“. It features both Chipped Ham Sam and Nebby Debbie and includes a Pittsburghese dictionary on the back with some of my favorite sayings. Sure there’s a chance we’ll bring another doll into the mix, but I may take the brand in a few additional directions first.

We heard our followers say they can use two Yappin’ Yinzers to have a conversation together, was this all part of the plan?

No – totally unintentional, but hilarious nonetheless. I guess when you put a couple of yinzers in the same room, conversation comes easy!

Do you have a favorite story that a customer shared with you…

I can’t pin down a single one, but I can say that they have been a hit as guest favors at several weddings, have helped to cheer up hospitalized loved ones, and are travel companions for a couple that does extensive travel through Europe. A women even created a blog dedicated to Sam’s hi-jinks while in Florida called the “Adventures of Chipped Ham Sam.”

What other companies are you involved in?

I work for a local software company called CombineNet as Director, Account Management. It was founded by a professor at CMU nearly ten years ago, and I believe we are now entering the most promising time for the company. I have had the opportunity to work with many of CombineNet’s key customers here in the U.S. and internationally, experience for which I’m grateful.

Do you think Pittsburgh is boring?

It’s getting to be a bit cliché at this point, but simply put, Pittsburgh is a great place to live. We may not have the scale of cultural outlets as found in New York or London, but we have our fair share, and there’s not a better place at the moment to be a sports fan!

Order Yappin’ Yinzers here

Yappin' Yinzers getting ready for the Steelers game at Heinz Field!

Yappin' Yinzers getting ready for the Steelers game at Heinz Field!

Pixburghese translation provided by our Pixburghese Correspondent, AJ Doyle.

Note: We do not condone use of Pittsburghese