1:33 pm Oct. 14, 2011
And around noon today he found himself in the middle of another mob scene, hemmed in by dozens of cameras from television and print outlets, uniformed and plainclothes police keeping a barricade between him and more than a thousand restless New Yorkers outside Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo's word flagship store at 53rd and Broadway, which opened today.
“He’s here to cut the ribbon,” said 19-year old college student David Zhen, whose spot near the front of the line made him as much of an expert as anyone.
Truth be told, the crowd (just barely over a thousand according to unofficial estimates) wasn’t all that restless. The line, which stretched from 53rd and 5th Avenune all the way down 53rd to 6th, then down 6th to 52nd, and then all the way down 52nd back to 5th Avenue, was full of people who were jovial and patient.
Even 31-year-old Dale Virgo, who’d been dragged by his girlfriend all the way from Connecticut to stand in line for two hours in what he described as “the gentlest kiss of rain,” was in fine spirits. “I’m here for the Little Dragon show tonight, too. And it’s Free Friday at MOMA.”
“He’s only been in on it for a few weeks,” his girlfriend, 26-year-old Julie Molino, said. Asked how long she’d been planning on coming, she thought hard. “Well, they announced it way back in early summer, so. . . “
Lines and crowds being the inexplicable draw that they are these days (the iPhone 4S line at Apple's 5th Avenue flagship store was the other mob story of the morning) some in this crowd weren't even Uniqlo die-hards.
The crowd featured more than one Uniqlo first-timer, unfamiliar with the clothing offered by the Japanese company (open in Soho since 2006), described by a rather thick brochure being handed out by Uniqlo staff as “clothes that transcend all categories and social groups.” Put slightly less dramatically, Uniqlo sells basics like jeans, dresses, and coats in stylish cuts and patterns.
The store has been advertising the opening aggressively on the front pages of the Daily News and some of the free commuter dailies. It was bargains the store had been touting these last several weeks that brought out the first-timers, including the much-advertised $9.99 jeans.
It was a deal on camisoles that enticed 76-year-old retiree and midtown resident Barbara Como to stand in the rain for two hours. Her impeccably quaffed white hair and green blazer sensibly tucked under one of the free ponchos employees were distributing, she described her canny shopping strategy: “They have something I want in a reasonable price and I understand we don’t have to pay tax on clothing under $50.”
All the way at the back of the line, next to man taking advantage of the crowd to hand out fliers for a sandwich shop, those who’d only just started waiting were in a bit of shock.
“I did not expect it to be so long!” said 50-year-old Queens resident Normi Farillas. She’d come to shop for her 18-year old daughter, also to take advantage of the sale prices. The line began moving slightly, and the Farillas settled in for a long wait, a few hours of that seeming in this economy a fair price to pay for some inexpensive clothes.
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