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Shopping early is quite the rush for some in Thanksgiving Day crowd

Portage residents Carol Samuels left Lauren Edelen bought gifts
for their six grandchildren purchased new Christmas tree the
Portage Meijer store Thursday

Portage residents Carol Samuels, left, and Lauren Edelen, bought gifts for their six grandchildren and purchased a new Christmas tree at the Portage Meijer store Thursday morning. | Carole Carlson/Post-Tribune

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Updated: November 29, 2013 9:02AM



HOBART — Had children never come into the picture, Angelica Garza of Crown Point would be curled up on the couch contemplating a second piece of pumpkin pie.

Her 3-year-old daughter, however, brought out the thrifty shopper in her, so Thursday she joined more than 150 like-minded folks taking advantage of Toys R Us. 5 p.m. Thanksgiving Day opening. It even got her out of her car to brave standing in line outdoors for the first time ever.

“Usually, I just wait in the car for the doors to open,” Garza said. “It’s different when you’re a parent. And (Black Friday shopping) is a bit of a rush.”

Melanie Westmoreland, of Valparaiso, was taking her inaugural spin at saving money for her own daughter. She’s done Black Friday shopping before, but never had she ventured out before the early morning sales.

It was fine, though.

“We already had our dinner,” Westmoreland said. “And if I can save $100 on toys for my daughter, it’s worth it.”

At the front of the Toys R Us line sat veterans Crystal Mayer, Melissa Fernandez, Jamie Leonard and Mayer’s sister, Cheryl McDaniel, a newcomer to the expedition. The women had been out front since 9 a.m. Thursday and were planning on scarfing down tacos before heading back out for the later shopping times, saving the turkey feast for Friday.

The women typically give themselves an eight-hour window to be first in line, and they’ve been at the front the past three years straight. This year, they added some new tricks to keep spirits high for when they went after the Skylander video game and Doc McStuffin dolls.

“When those doors open up, I’m going to be playing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (by Survivor),” said Mayer, of Winfield, who added she was wearing three pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, five shirts and two coats to keep herself insulated against the chill. “(Being first in line) is now a matter of principle. It’s all about winning.”

McDaniel, of Avon, had never done any extra-early shopping and wasn’t sure she’d survive.

“We’ll see how bad I get my butt kicked,” she said of her chances of doing it again.

Fernandez, of Hobart, said not to worry about that; Toys R Us always does a good job of keeping its customers safe during the Black Rush.

On the other side of the strip mall, Steve Vulpitta, of Hobart, once again sat at the front of the Best Buy line, with his friend and top-spot competitor, Jennifer Roberson, of Cedar Lake, finally making it to No. 2 in line, up from No. 14 last year. Vulpitta was sans the bathrobe he donned last year and had already taken his tent down.

The two Black Shopping veterans weren’t in quite as much of a hurry this time out, nor did it seem many people were in a hurry for digital equipment this year as the line was 20 deep at 4 p.m. Roberson pulled up around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, minutes after Vulpitta, who’s set up his camp as early as the Tuesday before a Best Buy Black sale.

Vulpitta suspects the deals might not have been as good as in previous years. As for his place at the front of the line, he might’ve used a bit of strategy this time.

“I may have been calling Best Buy yesterday to see if anyone was in line yet,” he demurred.

Over in Portage, the 24-hour Meijer store began its Black Friday sale at 6 a.m. Thursday. Manager Polly Emelander said shoppers came early for electronic bargains such as XBox 360 units and iPads.

“The morning rush was electronics and fashions,” she said.

While Wednesday sales were dominated by grocery items, Emelander said they accounted for just about 15 percent of sales Thursday morning.

The Portage store just opened in June so Emelander wasn’t quite sure what to expect for its first Black Friday kickoff.

“We don’t have any doorbusters in our ad so it’s a pleasant, even shopping experience,” she said. “It’s been very nice today. We’ve taken a lot of compliments.”

Shoppers were pleased; one woman thanked a Meijer associate for saving her $100 on an item.

— Staff writer Carole Carlson contributed to this report.



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