From left, Jenny Carrow of Greenfield, Ind., talks with family members Madisyn Tewell, 9, and Stephanie Compton of Valparaiso as they stand in line to get into Sears before the start of the Black Friday sales Thursday, November 22, 2012, in Hobart, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 24, 2012 7:21AM
HOBART — In his blue plaid fleece robe and sunglasses, Steve Vulpitta of Hobart sat triumphantly at the head of the line.
Vupitta, 21, who’d beat his personal best time by setting up camp in front of the Best Buy in Hobart since 4 p.m., Tuesday, didn’t even have anything he really wanted to get and was in line for his mom and friends instead. Didn’t matter — for the first time in years, he was the first person in line.
“My dad threw a tarp over my tent, so it kind of looks more like a shack. But it broke the wind,” he said. “It feels great to be No. 1.”
Temperate weather made sitting out on a day that’s supposed to be full of food and fellowship more tolerable, at least until a brief downpour made everything soggy. The Best Buy line, however, has become the outlet for fellowship to which many look forward, such as Jennifer Roberson, now of Cedar Lake. Roberson, along with the Pyne-Boyce family of Merrillville, were with Vulpitta in line last year and have now sort of made an outing of it.
Roberson even wondered where the usual first in line, a guy they know as “Doug,” wasn’t there.
“He probably knew he was going to be second in line and didn’t want to face the humiliation,” joked David Boyce, whose wife, Stephanie Boyce, is three weeks away from giving birth to their first child, a daughter they’ve named Bridget.
Flat screen TVs seemed to be the big item everyone wanted this year. Kurt Gouwens, of Crown Point, had been in line from 8 a.m. Thursday to get the 40-inch Toshiba flat screen Best Buy advertised for $179. And the Hargrove family of Gary waited across the street at Target from 2 p.m. Thursday for the 50-inch flat screen for $349, though CeCe Hargrove had a plan.
“I’m hoping Target will price match the Kmart price,” she said.
Over at Westfield Southlake Mall, it was Sears who had the longest line of people. In 2010, Hoffman Estates-based Sears decided to join its sister retailer, Kmart, in opening on the holiday for the first time in its history, but a year later reassessed the 7 a.m. to noon Thanksgiving Day hours and stayed closed until early the day after.
After a disastrous holiday shopping season last year, Sears embraced Thanksgiving hours: from 8 p.m. — before some families had time to finish dessert — through the night and the next day until 10 p.m. Friday.
When Jenny Carrow, of Greenfield, joined relatives for Thanksgiving, little did they know that she had plans for them that didn’t involve sitting in front of the TV stuffed with turkey. For the first time ever, she, Teresa and Stephanie Compton, of Valparaiso, and Madisyn Tewell, also of Greenfield, found themselves standing outside Sears. Normally, the Compton women might go shopping the afternoon of Black Friday, and only of there was something “really good,” but Carrow was on a mission.
“I’m here for a $97, 32-inch flat screen (TV) that we probably won’t even get a ticket for,” Carrow said, laughing. “I’m really going to feel gypped if (store employees) hand out only five tickets for them.”
— Chicago Sun-Times contributed