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Atlas Park sales slow on Black Friday

Despite strong crowds elsewhere, fewer shoppers went to the Shops at Atlas Park and Austin Street in Forest Hills on Black Friday, opting instead to go to Queens Center Mall or the new Rego Center.

The small turnout was in contrast to many shopping centers across the country, where shoppers boosted holiday purchases by more than 6 percent to an average of $365.34 during the four-day weekend from $343.31 a year earlier, according to the National Retail Federation.

Crowds at the Shops at Atlas Park at 80-00 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, which has been plagued by financial troubles, remained sparse on Black Friday, which marks the official kick-off the critical holiday sales period for retailers.

“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.

Sales were also slow in Forest Hills, where the small boutiques and speciality shops that characterize the neighborhood missed out on the 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 that the lack of rabid Black Friday shoppers was exactly the reason why they came.

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

On the other hand, western Queens’ busiest and most profitable mall, the Queens Center Mall at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst, was packed with shoppers and many stores had long lines.

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 that she had spent $400 to $500 so far around 10:30 a.m.

The tension that lurks beneath Black Friday shopping came to a head in the early afternoon at the mall. Two women came to blows in the checkout line of The Children’s Place, a children’s clothing store.

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.

Gail Barnes, store manager of Perfumania in the mall, said business started a little slow, but began to pick up in the middle of the morning. 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.

Barely a mile away, 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.

Clothing store Mandee opened in Rego Center a few days before Black Friday and said it was already doing good business.

“The customers are responding,” said Mandee District Manager Vicky Barrett. “They love the store. We’re getting a lot of feedback.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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