State

Shoppers brave cold and crowds on Black Friday in Modesto

Black Friday got an early start in Modesto as Vintage Faire Mall opened its doors at midnight to a swarm of eager shoppers. "Big box" retailers like Target and Best Buy opened a few hours later, and by daybreak hundreds of big-screen TVs and other hot-selling items had been carted away by shoppers, many who had spent hours waiting in the cold night air.

Below are reports filed by Bee reporters Marijke Rowland and Patty Guerra, who were out (depending on one's perspective) late or early to describe what happened.

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8:30 a.m. Black Friday shoppers are flocking to the iHop restaurant near the Briggsmore interchange with Highway 99 in Modesto, and the restaurant staff was ready for them. Five servers were on duty by 7 a.m. instead of just one.

The restaurant was doing a brisk business. Many shoppers had newspaper ads spread out on the tables.

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8:15 a.m. Daybreak showed the extent of the Black Friday frenzy in Modesto. Hours after stores at the Vintage Faire Mall and Toys R Us on Sisk Road opened their doors at midnight, the parking lots at both were still jammed with shoppers' cars and trucks. In contrast, the parking lot was empty at McHenry Village, where most stores are sticking to their normal mid-morning openings.

At the Toys R Us, one employee was overheard to say, "Man, this place is thrashed." Outside the entrance, a trash can was filled and overflow trash was stuffed into a couple of cardboard boxes where shoppers deposited soft drink cups, snack wrappers and advertising fliers.

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6:50 a.m. Best Buy, Target and other stores in Modesto opened their doors in the chilly early morning air to hundreds of shoppers eager for Black Friday deals. At the Best Buy on Sisk Road, a long line curled around around the front of the building awaiting the opening at 5 a.m. When the doors parted, shoppers streamed inside. Some whooped in delight or perhaps in relief: the temperature outside had been in the low 30s.

The nearby Target store on Sisk Road opened at 4 a.m. and was also flooded by shoppers, many who headed directly to the electronics section for flat-panel television sets. A short while later, long lines built at the checkout stands, snaking their way back into the aisles from the cashiers. About dawn, it was taking around an hour for a customer to go through checkout.

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Thousands of shoppers worked off their Thanksgiving dinners swarming into Vintage Faire Mall, which opened at midnight for the first time in the center’s history.

Crowds pressed the doors at the mall entrances and streamed into the parking lots, prompting police to ask center officials to open early. Guards shouted at eager shoppers to get back and tried without success to control the shoppers, many of whom sprinted to their destination.

Mall stores enticed shoppers with offers such as half off the store until 10 a.m. and free gift cards for the first arrivals.

It was enough to get 19-year-old Larissa Martinez in line at 9 p.m. on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Martinez was headed to Forever 21, which was offering $7 jeans.

Christmas shopping?

“No, I’m me shopping,” she said.

Mary Wilson was ready to get some holiday shopping done.

“We got here at 10,” she said at about 11:15 p.m. She didn’t have a specific strategy in mind.

“We’re just going to look and see what kind of deals they have,” she said.

As the crowd pushed in, she seemed to lose a little of her confidence.

“I don’t want to get crushed,” she said.

The mall played holiday music in the hours leading up to the opening, lending to a mostly festive atmosphere that faltered only when movement inside the mall prompted a rush forward about 11:30 p.m.

Outside the entrance near the Apple store, a new hot dog vendor was doing brisk sales of hot cider and cocoa.

“And we would be selling hot dogs, too, if they were ready yet,” said owner Jolene Corkwell.

She and her husband arrived about 9 p.m., after checking the mall throughout the afternoon to gauge the crowd.

Once inside, shoppers quickly formed lines outside the Disney, Aeropostale and Victoria’s Secret stores. A line to guest services, where shoppers submitted tickets for prizes, snaked through the mall by 12:15 a.m.

Crowds jammed around tables set up for greeters to distribute tickets, surrounding mall employees and grabbing over one another.

“I got stepped on and my hair got pulled,” one woman said.

Most of the mall’s 130 stores opened right at midnight for the event; exceptions included Sears, which had opened for five hours on Thanksgiving Day. The food court also stood ready for business, with a surprising number of takers for a 1 a.m. corn dog or cinnamon roll.

Even the Soroptimsts’ Christmas tree was staffed; project coordinator JoAnn Found and her husband decided at the last minute to come out. She wasn’t terribly hopeful many of the tags representing needy children would be taken from the tree, as the crowd was young and intent on shopping for deals.

Shoppers kept arriving and by just after 1 a.m. the lots surrounding the mall resembled a busy Saturday afternoon during the holiday season, with just a few spots remaining in the perimeter.

At about that time, Billa Slade of Patterson was heading for the exit with a cart laden with packages.

“We got a lot done,” she said of herself and her sister, Alfa Swanson, visiting from Iceland. The items, mainly cookware and luggage, came from JC Penney.

Slade and her sister performed what’s referred to as surgical shopping: studying the ads, determining what they wanted, going for it and getting out.

“These are all things we needed for the house,” she said.

Toys R Us was bustling by 11 p.m., an hour after its opening. Cars filled the parking lot and overflowed to take up most of the neighboring Orchard Supply Hardware parking lot, as well.A small line of shoppers could be seen outside Best Buy six hours before the store’s 5 a.m. opening. At least two people pitched tents on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Shoppers also were on the scene early at the Target store on Sisk Road, with a line stretching in front of the store. Those at the head of the line had chairs and were bundled up against the cold, which approached 30 degrees. In Turlock, Walmart did a brisk business by 10:30 p.m., with extra security on hand to control the crowd. More shoppers were still going in than coming out; during a brief stop by the store, only one man came out with a package. He lugged a single item — a megapack of toilet paper.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at 578-2343. Follow her at www.twitter.com/turlocknow.

Raw Video I: Vintage Faire Mall opening

Raw Video II: Vintage Faire Mall opening

Raw Video III: Sisk Road Target at 4:30 a.m.

Raw Video IV: Sisk Road Best Buy at 5 a.m.

Raw Video V: Best Buy's Flat Panel Army at 5:10 a.m.

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