Where Black Friday shoppers found the crowds and the deals in the suburbs
Fresh from their Thanksgiving gatherings, shoppers hungry for once-a-year bargains descended on regional malls in Schaumburg, Aurora and Deer Park on Black Friday from near and very, very far.
International trade deal
Alicia Kazmierzak accompanied her friend, Denise Engelhardt, to the Chicago area from near Cologne, Germany, as Engelhardt for Thanksgiving visited her host family from an earlier au pair job.
But the proximity of Schaumburg's Woodfield Mall -- Illinois' largest -- was too tempting for both to pass up on Black Friday.
By midmorning, Kazmierzak was ready to call a pair of pants and a T-shirt she'd found at Abercrombie & Fitch her favorite purchase of the day, specifically for being half price.
"She wouldn't have bought them if it wasn't for the deal," Engelhardt said.
In the Pink on Black Friday
For Melissa Newkirk of Arlington Heights, it was a similar buy-one-get-one-free deal at Pink that yielded her daughter two sweaters from her favorite store.
"My daughter loves it," she said of the popular apparel store with the long line outside it. "She's 11."
Mary Mackiewicz of Shorewood, just west of Joliet, made a change from her normal Black Friday shopping tradition by heading to Woodfield instead of Orland Square Mall in Orland Park.
"More stores, more options," she said of her new destination.
She chose as her favorite bargain the $39.99 bedroom comforter set she'd found at JCPenney as a gift for another family, having not expected to find such a low price.
Patience pays off
If only all holiday shoppers could be like Emily Burch.
Venturing out on Thanksgiving, Burch showed up to Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora at 9:30 p.m. Unable to find a parking spot, she left empty-handed.
"There was no parking last night," Burch said. "You couldn't even get into the parking lot."
Did she lose her temper? Toss up her hands in defeat?
With the patience of a saint, the Tinley Park woman returned to the mall before sunrise on Black Friday for some bonding time with her sister, St. Charles Alderman Lora Vitek. An upbeat Burch found thinner crowds and Under Armour apparel for her husband at 50% off.
Vitek picked up a half-off, $50 Michael Kors sweater.
"She enjoys it more than I do," Vitek said of her sibling.
Running on empty
Early bird Debbie Nona arrived to the Aurora mall at 3 a.m. and had yet to hit her second wind four hours later. Three friends, Amy McKinley of South Elgin, Regina Llewellyn of Bartlett and Jo Snell of Carol Stream, joined Nona for their second year of shopping together.
"It was packed, so probably 4 a.m. was when it started to open up," the Bartlett woman said.
Their best deals? Designer bags and wallets.
"Coach was 70% off and then another 20% off," Nona said.
An American ritual
Waleed Al Ismail has embraced an American tradition shopping in the wee hours of Black Friday for the last few years as a Northern Illinois University student from Saudi Arabia. The finance major didn't have a game plan heading to the Aurora outlet mall at 2 a.m., except to fuel up on coffee.
He picked up Gap jackets at 60% off and a bonus shirt as a gift. Retailers at home offer Black Friday sales, but there's a difference with the suburban version, the NIU sophomore said.
"I didn't think it would be so crowded. I wasn't expecting that," he said.
Most of the stores at the outdoor Deer Park Town Center mall opened at 8 a.m., but some, including Gap and Bath & Body Works, offered "doorbuster" deals started as early as 6 a.m.
Palatine resident Julie Baltz slipped into Gap at 7:30 a.m. before the big deals went away. Baltz said nearly everything was 60% off.
She said she snagged a pair of jeans for herself and clothes for her granddaughter.
Rare sale on yoga pants
Amelia Roper of Barrington said she normally does her early morning Black Friday shopping at Woodfield Mall but decided this year to give Deer Park a try. She found it to be far busier than what she'd come to expect in Schaumburg.
According to a mall official, nearly all of the 3,000 parking spaces at Deer Park Town Center were occupied by 8 a.m.
Roper said she had trouble finding a spot when she rolled in at 8:30 a.m. Despite the crowds, Roper was able to make it to Lululemon.
"They never have any sales," she said of the chain famous for yoga pants. "But for Black Friday, they had a ton of sales racks."
• Daily Herald staff writer Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.