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Crowds come out for Black Friday


MASSENA - With nearly 40 minutes before the start of this year’s Black Friday sales, which actually kicked off Thursday night, the parking lot at Massena’s Walmart was nearly filled to capacity. Up the street at St. Lawrence Centre more than 300 people were waiting outside of Sears for the holiday shopping season to officially begin.

One of the first people in line at Sears was Rick Legault of Waddington.

Mr. Legault said he arrived at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday, waiting outside the store’s side entrance.

“I’m going to get a set of diamond earrings for the wife,” he said, adding, “She knows she’s getting them. She picked them out.”

When asked if he would still be shopping at 5 a.m. when the mall’s other stores all would be open, he said, “Probably not. I’m going home to watch a little TV and relax.”

That being said, Mr. Legault said the jewelry may not be his only purchase.

“I’ll look around and see what catches my eye,” he said

At the store’s rear entrance was a group of Canadian women, who said they had been waiting since 3 p.m. Thursday for the store to open.

“We wanted to make sure we got here first,” Carol Faulkner of Cornwall, Ont., said.

Ms. Faulkner said she was looking to pick up one of the 50-inch TVs and with a lucky ticket in hand she was assured success.

Her friend, Suzanne Arnold, also of Cornwall, was also looking for a TV, but a smaller one, one of the 32-inch models that was on sale for less than $100.

“This is the first time we’ve done this, so we’re really excited,” she said.

Not everyone though was quite as lucky, although they were optimistic of success while waiting outside the store’s side entrance.

Amy Jameson, of Ogdensburg was hoping to pick up both a 32-inch and a 50-inch TV.

“One of them is a gift, but the other one is for myself,” she said. “I’m hopeful. I came prepared to spend.”

Her optimism didn’t last long though. When Sears opened its doors, she discovered that tickets for the day’s big ticket items were distributed only at the rear entrance.

“They should have told us that or at least split the tickets up with some at each door,” she said.

Frustrated at striking out, Ms. Jameson said, “That’s why I shop on-line.”

Another of the store’s shoppers though was having a little more fun.

Decked out in a neon green T-shirt was Pam LaBarge of Massena. Ms. LaBarge said she was part of a group of 10 women who were all wearing the colorful celebratory gear.

“We do it every year,” she said, adding this was the second year they had custom shirts made for the day.

“This year we had Phil and Jackie (Sheehan) put their names on the back to advertise for them,” she said.

Mr. LaBarge said her day began at 4:40 p.m. Thursday when she got in line at Walmart to wait for a special item that someone will open as a gift on Christmas morning. Five hours later, shopping at Sears, she said her day was just beginning, as she was planning to visit several other stores when the mall opened at 5 a.m.

At 9:30 p.m., as Walmart shoppers were gearing up for another round of sales, the store’s parking lot was nearly filled, as was the adjacent lot at Home Depot.

Inside Walmart, where the scene resembled a mosh pit at a rock concert, many of the aisles were filled with people waiting for one of the night’s special items.

Among those in the crowd was Angela Wilhelm of Massena, who was able to secure a laptop despite waiting in line for less than half an hour.

“They had about 80 of them and there was only about 10 people in line,” she said. “It must not have been a hot seller.”

Aside from the laptop, Ms. Wilhelm said she didn’t really have her sights set on anything else.

“I came to see what I could find,” she said. “I do it every year.”

Another repeat customer was Sue Clouthier of Morewood, Ont. She also came for a laptop.

“My daughter is in that line,” she said, as she was pushing two carts of merchandise through the crowded store.

When asked what brings them stateside for Black Friday, she replied, “The prices,” adding that many stores in Canada are now starting to offer Black Friday deals of their own, although better bargains can still be found in the U.S.

Nicky Anderson, who was shopping with Ms. Clouthier, said while she’s glad to see Canadian merchants celebrating Black Friday, she would prefer to see their version on a different day than the American Black Friday.

“They should have it the day after our Thanksgiving,” she said.

Several hours later with about 15 minutes to go before St. Lawrence Centre opened its doors, a crowd of approximately 150 people was waiting outside the mall’s main entrance.

Mollie Mayette and her sister, Megan, were the first ones in line, arriving at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“I came last year with my sister, so I figured I would come again,” Molly said, adding, at least in the presence of her sister, that she didn’t have any one thing in mind.

“I’ll kind of shop around everywhere,” she said, adding she was planning on going to JC Penney to buy her sister’s present.

Despite warmer-than-normal temperatures, Molly said she was feeling the effects of standing outside since 9 p.m.

“I can’t feel my nose. I can feel about three of my toes, so that’s a positive and I can feel all my fingers, because I have the warmest mittens in the world,” she said.

Further back in the line was Claudia McIntosh of Parishville.

Ms. McIntosh said St. Lawrence Centre was the second stop of her Black Friday weekend.

“We just got here. We were at Walmart at 8 p.m., but then we went home and took a nap,” she said, adding her Walmart adventure came in Potsdam.

Ms. McIntosh said she was glad to see the stores all opening at different times, something that makes the Black Friday experience a little bit easier to plan.

“There’s a couple of things in every store,” she said. “So we’ll have to make our rounds. I’m not really good at on-line shopping. I still stand in line and do it the old-fashioned way.”

The mall also marked the second stop for Dayna Doukara of Louisville, who called her Walmart trip a success.

“We did really well,” she said. “There was a lot of little stuff we were after this year.”

Specifically, Ms. Doukara said she was able to secure a Tuppwerware set that went on sale at 8 p.m. and a Blu-Ray player that went on sale at 10 p.m.

After that, she said she went to Bon Ton, which opened at midnight.

“Then we didn’t have anything to do, so we went back to Walmart and came back here for 5 a.m.,” she said.

St. Lawrence Centre Marketing Manager Ronald J. Patnode said he was pleased with the turnouts.

“We went through 250 bags in 18 minutes,” he said, referring to the gift bags that contained people’s entry into the day’s prize drawings.

“I think we’re doing well,” he said, adding that heading into the day he wasn’t sure what to think of all the different opening times.

“I was a little concerned with all the stores opening at different times,” he said. “But I think it helped keep things a little more even-keeled.”

The last store to open at the mall was JC Penney, which opened at 6 a.m., an hour after the mall itself.

Holly McMinn and her daughter, Tara Marineau, both of Montreal were among the first customers inside the store, despite coming to the mall without a game plan.

“We walked in and all the people were heading to this case,” Ms. McMinn said, adding they decided to follow the crowd.

What they found were kitchen appliances all on sale for $8 apiece.

Leaving the mall with bags that contained an electric griddle, crock pot and blender, Ms. McMinn said, “That’s what everyone was going for.”

Ms. McMinn said Black Friday has become a tradition for she and her daughter, who come to the U,S. to escape the higher prices they see back home.

“We come to Massena because in Montreal everything is so expensive,” she said, adding they had already been to Bon Ton and were still planning on visiting TJ Maxx and Walmart before heading back home.

Another pair of Canadian shoppers were Samantha Lalonde and her sister, Ashley, both of Cornwall, who said they couldn’t wait to get back home and finally get some sleep.

“I’m so tired,” Ashley said. “I worked all day and then came here. We’ve been here since 11 p.m.”

The girls, who were leaning against a post in the mall’s centre court, were awaiting the prize drawings before leaving.

“We better win something,” Samantha said.

Unfortunately for them, neither girl brought home one of the five prizes St. Lawrence Centre gave away Friday morning.

Jody Gadway of Brasher won a prize, a 50-inch LED high-definition television.

“I love it,” she said. “I don’t know if it will fit in my living room, but I don’t care. If I have to mount it on the ceiling I’ll make it fit.

Ms. Gadway said her day too was coming to end.

“We started shopping here at 3:30 a.m., but I was at Walmart at 8 p.m., then I went home and came back here at 12:30 a.m. Then we went outside and started waiting at 3:30 a.m. My daughter is about to drop.”

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