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On Black Friday, a test of endurance

| Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 12:34 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Amanda Cooper, of Hanover,PA, and her father, Gary Cooper, of Saxonburg, pause for a moment outside of the JCPenney store at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall during their 'Black Friday' shopping at the mall in Frazer Twp. on Friday, November 23, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Eric and Donna Dolby, of Plum, make their way back to their car after shopping at the Pittsburgh Mills Mall during their 'Black Friday' at the mall in Frazer Twp. on Friday, November 23, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
K-Mart workers Conner Kapelewski, left, and Josh Flinn, assist Kamri Brestensky, of Freeport, by loading a 51 inch tv into the back of her and her mother Ronna's van at the K-Mart in New Kensington on Friday, November 23, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Some went seeking electronics, others went in search of the perfect Christmas present with no certain idea of what that is.

For the thrifty but hearty souls who ventured out to shopping centers and malls in the wee hours of the morning, Black Friday was as much about endurance and determination as it was bargains.

Ronna Brestensky and her daughter, Kamri, both of Freeport, personified both.

Ronna headed to Kmart in New Kensington at 8 p.m. Thursday, fixed on getting a large flat screen TV but was too late to get a voucher for one of the TVs advertised there.

Undeterred, she went out at 1 a.m. to Best Buy and then Sears in the Pittsburgh Mills Mall in Frazer only to encounter more disappointment.

She returned to Kmart and found a 51-inch TV for a good price but wasn't able to leave with it.

“That was at 3 in the morning and the registers weren't working,” Ronna said.

So she returned around 12:45 p.m. to finally claim her prize with Kamri, who joined her at 5 a.m. to make a trip to Monroeville Mall in between.

“We've kind of made it a tradition,” Kamri said. “We've been doing this for seven years.”

Apparently, they are not alone.

Jen Cousins and her mother-in-law, Cheryl Cousins, both of Kittanning and Cheryl's daughter, Michelle Vorpe of Ford City, took a noontime break on a bench in the Mills mall from a Black Friday odyssey that they have launched every Black Friday for almost a decade.

“We came (to Mills) at 10:30 a.m., but we were at other places, ” Jen Cousins said, several Aeropostale bags sitting at her feet. “We started at our Walmart in Kittanning at 4:30 and then went to (Clearview Mall) in Butler. We didn't have to stand in line to get in anywhere.”

Asked if the bargains they have found are worth it, Vorpe said, “If it's worth it depends on how we are by the end of the day, how tired we are, how cranky we are. If it's a good shopping day, we can look past how tired we are.”

Pittsburgh Mills mall General Manager Jerry Crites said 30 to 40 stores opened at midnight, many more than in 2011.

“This is a big difference for us,” he said. “It's a total shift. It used to be we'd open at 6 a.m. and stay busy all day.”

He said with some stores being open Thursday and more opening at midnight, the mall was busy until 3 a.m., tailed off for several hours and then became busy again about 8 or 9 a.m.

Gary Cooper of Saxonburg and his daughter, Amanda Cooper of Hanover, pushed a shopping cart loaded with purchases through the mall.

“We had some lists of gifts for family members and we found some good deals,” Gary Cooper said, mentioning luggage they purchased in particular.

The Coopers said they came to the mall around 9 a.m. and pretty much found what they were after. “There's no need to be out at night, you can get the same deals,” Amanda Cooper said.

Rachel Locke, a New Kensington native who now lives in Perrysburg, N.Y., near Buffalo, was in town for Thanksgiving. She said she came out Friday with her kids looking for fun, not deals. “The kids just like the idea of (going shopping on Black Friday),” Locke said. “It's like the first day of hunting season for them. It's not so much for the deals as for the experience.”

But Black Friday shopping is not like that for everyone.

As they pushed a cart loaded with bags to their car in the parking lot at Kmart in New Kensington, Brittany and Ryan Mazzone had had enough and were ready to head back to their North Apollo home.

“We started last night at 8 p.m., now I need to go home,” Brittany said. “I can't see straight.”

She was hard at bargain-hunting all night only stopping to return home and get her husband up at 5 a.m. to join her.

She said she found some things at the Mills mall but did not do as well as last year. Brittany said she was irked by a group of people who apparently showed up early at Sears to get vouchers for low prices on some usually high-priced items such as electronics and then were selling those vouchers for $50 each to people in line.

For his part, Ryan Mazzone just shook his head. “It's not fun,” he said. “It can be a little bit aggravating.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or

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