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Malls strike gold on Black Friday

Shoppers packed malls and outlet stores around Forest Hills, but avoided higher-end retailers on Austin Street and in Atlas Park on Black Friday.

On Austin Street, the small boutiques and speciality shops that characterize the neighborhood missed out on the holiday spending spree.

“This year isn’t good at all,” said Vida Malekan, owner of Chez Moi, at 71-47 Austin St. “The shoppers all go to department stores.”

But many bargain hunters walking the streets said the lack of rabid Black Friday shoppers was exactly why they came.

“I hate crowds,” said Forest Hills resident Frank Stocks. “I love it here. It’s a cozy, hometown environment.”

Another shopper, who emerged from Toys R Us at 70-00 Austin St., said she would not be caught dead in a mall this season.

“The boutiques are nice and peaceful,” said Anna Pullini. “The holidays aren’t about being in malls. I don’t care if it costs me more money. I want to enjoy shopping.”

Across Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, the Rego Center at Junction Boulevard and 62nd Drive celebrated its first Black Friday, which many store managers at the various shops said was better than they expected.

“People are happy to find us,” said Adam Self, manager of the Costco at Rego Center.

But things were not going as well at the Shops at Atlas Park at 80-00 Cooper Ave. in Glendale. Unlike the packed Rego Center, the pathways around the Shops remained sparse.

“We’re not as busy as we hope to be,” said Nahid Ahmed, owner of the new Subway at the Shops.

But she said her own business, which was giving out coupons for free subs, was doing well. As the first business to open in the Shops in two years, she said she hoped this was an indication of a turnaround.

Laura Fraraccio, sales manager at the Borders at the Shops, also said her business had good sales.

“I think we’re doing pretty much the same as last year,” she said, adding that last year there were also more stores.

But the most action-packed retailer was certainly the Queens Center Mall at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst — at least if you like a good fight.

Two women came to blows in the checkout line of The Children’s Place, a children’s clothing store in the mall.

One of the women involved in the altercation, who would not give her name, said she and the other woman were in line when she moved the other woman’s bags with her foot. The other woman allegedly accused her of kicking the bags and the women began to fight.

“She punched my face, and then I scratched her face,” the woman said.

Western Queens’ busiest and most profitable mall, at 90-15 Queens Blvd., opened at midnight Nov. 26, which is considered the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. The crowds and long lines were indicative of many shopping centers across the country. The National Retail Federation said the number of shoppers jumped from 195 million last year to 212 million this year. The shoppers also spent an average of $365.34, more than 6 percent compared to last year’s $343.31, and total profits in America reached $45 billion.

Some shoppers, like 18-year-old Richmond Hill resident Dwayne Persaud, had been at the mall since midnight.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 8,” he said of the Black Friday tradition. He said he planned to leave at noon.

Bayside resident Sonia Sawlani, 19, came with two of her relatives at 5 a.m. and planned to stay until noon.

“I just came for the fun of it,” she said, adding she had spent more than $400 around 10:30 a.m.

Gail Barnes, store manager of Perfumania in the mall, said she attributed her store’s Black Friday discounts to the success of the day.

“Money’s a little tight, so everybody wants a deal,” Barnes said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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