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Black Friday in South Florida: Dispatches from the front of the line

12:30 PM, Best Buy and Target, Pembroke Pines In anticipation of black Friday, Michael Onuoha took his spot in line at the Best Buy on 11450 Pines Blvd in Pembroke Pines on Wednesday morning.

“We left our chairs and came later in the day,” said Michael, 13, of Pembroke Pines, who waited in line with several family members to purchase a television set, a laptop and other electronics.

Michael, called the experience of waiting more than a day in line a happy one.

“I met new friends,” in line, said Michael. “It’s been a good experience.”

Best Buy was a hot spot for many Black Friday shoppers looking to take advantage of the stores midnight sale. More than 400 people waiting in line at the Pembroke Pines store.

Vendors sold coffee and food to shoppers as they waited, many of whom were bundled up next to each other to beat the chilly weather.

Inside the store the atmosphere was fairly relaxed, with most people standing patiently in line to purchase their items as dance music blasted on the stores speakers.

“This is what we live for in retail,” said Armando Lopez, the store’s general manager. “This is our Super Bowl.”

Many shoppers bounced from store to store Thursday night and Friday night. Some even got to know their line mates.

Kim White, 30, and Michelle Daniels, 31, met up in the electronics line at Target, 11253 Pines Blvd, in Pembroke Pines that extended throughout the back of the store.

As they waited they learned they both planned to go to Pembroke Lakes Mall after their trip and had been at the Walmart, 12800 Pines Blvd., in Pembroke Pines at 7:30 p.m. before headed to Sears in Pembroke Lakes Mall an hour later.

Daniels, who left her Thanksgiving dinner early to head to the mall, is a first time black Friday shopper and said she enjoyed the experience.

“I love it, I think it’s kind of fun,” said Daniels, a Jacksonville resident who was in town for the holiday.

Daniels, who was waiting to buy a digital camera, added the long lines would have bothered her more on a normal shopping day.

“I like the sales and deals you can get today,” she said.

11 AM Bass Pro Shops, Dania Beach Lines at cash registers were about 15 people deep as the Black Friday specials came to a.close after six hours. Jeans for $9.97, a kids mini ATV for $29.97 and a $179.97 smoker were some of the big sellers.

Dave Kemether grabbed the last smoker to replace one he had that broke.

"There was a whole rack and it emptied in a matter of seconds," said Kemether, 55, of Dania Beach. "I guess I got here just in time."

11 AM Pembroke Lakes Mall Alice Bostic, 59, of Miami Gardens, is still shopping after more than five hours in the Pembroke Lakes Mall. The preacher’s wife arrived at 5:30 a.m.

"I still have some get up and go," she said.

Bostic, accompanied by niece Pamela Siler, 45, still has Bed, Bath and Beyond on her agenda.

Kendra Pew, 42, is heading home after more than 10 hours of shopping at the Pembroke Lakes Mall.

"I’m exhausted. I’m out of here, " Pew said.

Pew, a makeup artist, arrived at the mall at 1 a.m., heading first to Macy’s.

11:09 AM Merrick Park, Coral Gables How quietly did Black Friday morn unfold at the upscale Merrick Park mall in Coral Gables?

Quiet enough that Fred Greear could read a book outside Neiman Marcus. The doctor from Bristol, Va., took his comfy seat in solitude while his daughter, a Miami resident, browsed the specials inside. "I turned the shopping over to her," he said, taking a break from reading Human by Michael Gazzango.

10 AM Aventura Mall If you’ve just about had it with Black Friday shopping and your body and mind feel like they’re about to explode, the Spa at Turnberry Isle Miami wants to let you know they’re there for you, poor shopper.

The spa, across the street from Aventura Mall, is offering a “Shoppers Recovery Spa Ritual”: a 60-minute reflexology and 30-minute “extra-bliss” half-body massage along with an energy smoothie infusing fresh ingredients from the onsite chef’s garden. The spa wants to “relax and soothe sore areas associated with shopping by targeting key stress points including the feet, hands, and back.” But it’ll cost you: $165, plus gratuity. But being this is Black Friday and all, that price translates to more than a $100 savings. Call 305-933-6930.

9:36 AM, Merrick Park mall, Coral Gables The jammed parking garages, the lines at checkout, the packed aisles. It’s all a distant holiday memory at this upscale mall, which looks relatively quiet this Friday morning.

Said one Pottery Barn clerk to one of nine customers inside: "We won’t get busy until the afternoon. Mornings are for electronics."

9 AM Aventura Mall The mood at the Aventura Mall was calm and orderly. By 5 a.m., the parking garages started filling up. But some customers arrived after Thanksgiving dinner with most of the early activity centering around the Apple Store.

“I have been in line since 11:30 p.m.,” said Danny Pierce, 23, a salesman at Carmax in Fort Lauderdale, who was the first of about 100 eager shoppers waiting patiently in line outside the mall’s Apple Store on Black Friday. “I offered to sell my spot for between $500 and $1,000 but no one wanted it.”

Instead, Pierce settled for a new iMac for his grandmother as a Christmas present.

Dennis Obando, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, was the second person in line and thinks it was worth the wait to get his hands on a new second-generation mini iPad.

“It was worth standing here all night because it is way cheaper than buying it online,” he said.

“Just the way we girls like it,” said Liz David, 21, of Coconut Creek, an aspiring chef at Le Cordon Bleu, as she squeezed into a pair of jeans inside JC Penney as her friends provided cover. “There aren’t too many men here.”

David, who arrived with five friends, said that she did her “homework” and put JCP first on her list because the jeans were only $10, scarves were $5, and shoes were 30 percent off.

“We are very pleased with the turnout,” said Raul Rincon, the JCP store manager, who added that the store had some “amazing deals.”

“As you can see, the customers are very appreciative.”

7 AM Aventura Mall Some customers from China rushed into Abercrombie — and stopped in shock upon seeing a shirtless man greeting customers.

“We don’t do this in China,” said Sherry Guo, 29, as her friends giggled.

5:45 AM Aventura Mall Macy’s was open but the entrance to the mall from the department store was closed. The mall opens at 6. Customers could not get into the Mall from Macy’s before 6 and had to walk outside to one of the mall entrances. Cars started backing up on the mall perimeter road, but plenty of parking spaces were still available. Around the corner from the mall, three Aventura police cars, lights flashing, were stationed next to a sign warning drivers to wear a seatbelt or face a ticket.

3:20 AM Dadeland Mall Most shoppers are standing in line for coffee at Starbucks, eating Bourbon chicken from Kelly’s Cajun Grill, munching on a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s or taking a cat nap. Those leaving are carrying bags from Macy’s, the Disney Store,

Bath and Body Works, and Victoria’s Secret.

Maria Prado, the mall manager, said she is "very impressed" with the Black Friday turnout.

"This is a critical day for retail," Prado said, of Kendall. "We are in this business to cater to what shoppers want."

2 AM, Dadeland Mall The mall is still packed with people. Many of them are gathered in the Disney Store, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works and Macy’s. The Apple store, which had a line of nearly 150 shoppers waiting for the door to open at midnight, now only has a line of about 25 shoppers. Instead of opening at midnight, Apple is opening at 6 a.m.

At Victoria’s Secret, the security guard fell asleep standing while nearly 100 shoppers were making purchases. Husbands and infants slept outside of the store on brown couches.

12:30 AM, Dadeland Mall All retail stores were expected to open at midnight. But as of 12:30 a.m., neither the Apple store nor jewelry stores Tous or Mayors were open. Nearly 150 people were waiting outside of Apple.

According to Guest Services, stores that were not open by midnight would be fined.

Meanwhile, the rest of the mall buzzed with eager families and couples. Many shoppers were already sporting bags from Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Express and Abercrombie & Fitch.

12:06 AM, Dadeland Mall Dadeland Mall officially opened at 12 a.m., and by 12:06 a.m. a group of young girls were already walking out of the mall with Victoria’s Secret bags in hand.

As the doors opened at Abercrombie & Fitch, people shouted to get in. Some yelled "Hallelujah" as others tried to push their way through.

Friday, midnight, Sawgrass Mills After a moderate start, the pace picked up at Sawgrass Mills. By midnight the mall was packed. Human traffic jams made walking through corridors challenging. Parking lot spaces were gone by 11 p.m., and people were being sent to the BB&T center and shuttled over to the mall. Food courts were doing brisk business as shoppers grabbed a quick bite to refuel.

11:45 PM, Dolphin Mall, Gaspar Ferreiro headed to the mall Thanksgiving night to shop, and to sell. Waiting in line at the Swaroski jewelry store, the Georgia resident had a promotion of his own to offer. A sign hand-written in marker and hanging from a string on his back read: “FOR SALE WII DELUXE FOR $465.”

The hot new Nintendo video-game system sells for about $350. Ferreiro bought four when they went on sale this month, and he’s giving one to his kids. Now he’s reselling the rest at a mark-up to help pay for the one he kept. “If I make $70 [on each], that’s fine,’’ he said. “No need to take advantage of anybody.”

10:30 PM, Sawgrass Mills If you timed it right you could walk into BrandsMart less than an hour after opening with no waiting.

"It was good compared to last year," said Carrie Ebenks, 36, of Pembroke Pines. "They moved much faster."

Ebenks and her sister Bonny Bush arrived about 8:30 p.m. and were inside before 9:30 p.m., only 30 minutes after the store opened. But they still missed out on the 40-inch TV for $147. They settled for a 32-inch for $247.

10:22 PM, Dolphin Mall The line to the Michael Kors store was 120 people long. The deal: 20 percent off the whole purchase, with some merchandise already marked down 40 percent. So the typical $250 purse would sell for... $120.

"Aren’t you glad wallets don’t cost this much?" nutrition manager Robert Sherman said to a reporter from his spot near the front of the line. It took him an hour to get there.

His wife, Lorie, was there to pick out her first Kors purse. "This is her Christmas present," Sherman said. Then the attendant parted the plastic guard rail and the Shermans slipped inside.

9:45 PM, Coral Gables At the Sears in Coral Gabes near Miracle Mile, which opened at 8 p.m., shoppers got an early start on the deals. And in most cases, they were there to buy a bigger, better TV.

Shoppers began arriving at around noon at the store to get a ticket for the early entry DoorBuster deals. Among them was Graciela Nodarse, 40, of Miami, and her teenage son, Mike, who were there for the advertised 50-inch HDTV for $299.

They had arrived at the store at around 5 p.m., landed a ticket, scurried inside and purchased the TV.

By 9 p.m., they were in the merchandise pick-up area waiting for their names to be called, along with other shoppers who came for the early deals.

"The wait wasn’t so bad," Nodarse said. "I think if we had gone to an electronics store we would still be in line until midnight. Here, once we got in it was easy."

9:35 PM, Sawgrass Mills Craig Karpe arrived at Target at Sawgrass at 6 p.m. to get the 32-inch television for $147. He was one of the first 20 people in line. Target opened at 9 p.m., and he was done in just over 30 minutes.

"I give Target a lot of credit; it was really organized," said Karpe, 46, of Tamarac. "The TVs were already in carts down the aisles for you to grab and go."

But he has mixed feelings about the early Black Friday opening.

"It’s nice not having to get up in the middle of.the night, " Karpe said. "I also think you’re cutting the holiday short. Thanksgiving shouldn’t be about taking the family to the mall."

9:30 PM, Pembroke Pines Christian Cutillo, of Weston, left her Thanksgiving dinner early to shop.

By 9:30 p.m. she had a cart filled with merchandise at the Target near Pembroke Lakes Mall and had already been to Wal-Mart and Sears.

The 26-year-old is a 14-year Black Friday veteran. She said the night of shopping is worth it not only for the savings, but also because it allows her to get a majority of her gift-buying out of the way.

9:25 PM, Dolphin Mall The line outside the Swaroski jewelry store was 10 people long.

9:15 PM, Pembroke Pines Kim White was standing with dozens ahead of her in the electronics line at the Target near Pembroke Lakes Mall.

She was waiting to buy a Wii video game console and games that were on sale.

Target was the third store she and her husband had been to since they started with a nearby Wal-Mart at 7:30 p.m.

"We do our research and we watch the sales all year," said White, 30, of Pembroke Pines, who has been shopping on Black Friday for the past six years.

She said with the right planning the sales are worth staying up for.

8:01 PM, Kendall Big LED television sets for as little as $147 brought Yamilet Guerra to the BrandsMart in Kendall at 10 a.m. Thursday.

She didn’t mind forgoing a turkey dinner.

"A 60-inch TV for $647 is a good deal, " Guerra, 18, of Miami, said of her planned purchase.

Joining her in line at 10 a.m. were Uglis Boscan, 45, and Juan Romero, 40, both visitors from Venezuela.

"We want the cheap LED TVs and any other good deal we can get," Boscan said.

The trio said the line behind them began to form at around 3 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m., as the temperature began to drop, they were hoping the store would open at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.

7:52 PM , Toys R Us, Doral: This big-box toy store won’t open for eight more minutes, but Eddy Fonseca is already halfway through one of the biggest shopping sprees in the state.

The coordinator of the Marines Corps’ Toys For Tots drive in Hialeah, Fonseca and his team of volunteers had the run of the store for the last two hours as hundreds of regular customers waited outside for their chance at the Thanksgiving deals.

"We try and get the discounts like everyone else," Fonseca said.

He was checking out in a special line Toys R Us set up for the charity. His budget: $10,000, all donated by supporters in recent months. That’s enough for about 20 carts of toys.

A quick tour of Toys R Us’ aisles before the doors opened to the public showed no dent in inventory for the early-bird shopping run.

Thursday, 7:30 PM, Pembroke Pines For nearly two hours Rose Marie Walker strolled the lanes at the Wal-Mart near Pembroke Lakes Mall in Pembroke Pines waiting for the 8 p.m. sale to start.

The store’s sale items were sealed off with employees standing guard to make sure shoppers didn’t start grabbing merchandise until the sale began.

By 7:30 p.m., the 56-year-old was standing her ground in front of a display of bedroom slippers, jeans and boxers, waiting to get the all-clear to fill her cart.

"I am just shopping for a couple of people," said Walker, a Miami Gardens resident. "I am going home tomorrow by 8 a.m."

She plans on shopping at Target and JC Penney after leaving Wal-Mart and expects to have most of her shopping done by that time.

Over in the electronics section, Dwayne Cisrow, 32, was tenth in a line of about 12 people for a Nabi 2, a tablet designed for children that’s on sale for $129, a $70 savings from its regular price, according to the store flier.

"You save a lot," he said.

Cisrow, who came to the store with his wife, mother-in-law and his daughter’s godmother, said the early shop time did not interfere with his Thanksgiving.

His family ate dinner together before heading to Wal-Mart around 7:30 p.m.

"I don’t feel either way about it," said Cisrow, of Fort Lauderdale.

Miami Herald reporters Luisa Yanez, Doug Hanks, Elaine Walker, Elizabeth De Armas and Paradise Afshar contributed to this report.

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