ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. - A loaded hot dog and a bag of chips outside the Toys "R" Us store made for a great Thanksgiving night dinner, Jenae Luisi thought, especially considering what she ate last year when she camped out here for a Black Friday bargain.
"We just had to starve," said Luisi, 30, who arrived just after 5:30 p.m. this evening and sat behind at least two dozen shoppers in a line that had stretched halfway around the store by 8 p.m.
Shane and Maureen Sybil own the Palm Beach Hot Dog Co. along with Maureen's brother Kevin Upton. After reading news stories about fights among Black Friday shoppers, they said they decided that setting up shop at a retail hot spots on Thanksgiving night would be a lucrative business opportunity that both shoppers and store owners would appreciate.
"Just think how much more happy and calm people will be going in to shop when they've had something to eat, a muffin, coffee," Upton said. "It's a win-win."
Standing two spots behind Luisi in the line, Nicki Krzemien said she was practicing her winner's shopping stance, armed with a Toys "R" Us advertising circular and plans, like Luisi, to snag one of the coveted Leapster learning systems on sale at a 50 percent discount.
Krzemien, 34, stood from the ledge where she had been squatting and stretched her legs from side to side, white tennis shoes on her feet and a sweater wrapped around her waist.
Her outfit was the uniform of hundreds of shoppers who lined up outside shopping centers around Palm Beach County this evening, clamoring for discounts on the eve of the biggest shopping day of the year.
A line had already begun to form at the Best Buy store 2 miles south along State Road 7 in Wellington - complete with a security detail of Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies - when Luisi and Krzemien got to Toys "R" Us. Local police reported that shoppers started camping out at the h.h. gregg electronics store at Military Trail and Okeechobee Boulevard outside West Palm Beach before 6:30 p.m.
For many in the Royal Palm Toys "R" Us crowd, the store was just the first stop in a three-part tour that would include stops to Wal-Mart and Big Lots.
Krzemien rattled off a shopping plan to her fellow shoppers in the final moments before the doors of the store opened at 9 p.m.
Her husband was home, she said, watching their 5- and 3-year-old children, happy to be out of the fray.
"He wanted no part in this," Krzemien said with a laugh. "He said he wouldn't be out here for love or money."
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