More than 70 people, ages 23 to 55, searched for romance at the Queens shopping center during a speed dating event hosted by Florida-based 8 Minute Dating. For $35, attendees took part in eight-minute dates with eight persons in their age category at the Shops' Shiro of Japan, Johnny Rockets, Pasticchio's and Amish Market.Sally said the event was the sixth in which she has taken part."I find it is better than online dating," she said. "Over the Internet, how do you know you have chemistry? When you meet a person face-to-face, you know almost immediately whether or not you have a connection."Diane, a Howard Beach third-grade teacher who is at the lower end of the 45-55 age group, said she enjoys the program because it provides a safe environment in which to meet romantic potentials and new friends."If you are a talker and are not into the bar scene, it's a nice way to meet people," she said. "If you are shy, it might not be for you. I'm as subtle as a sledgehammer."Spencer, 55, a Kew Gardens resident who owns a downhill ski equipment company, said he attended the event at the recommendation of a friend."It's quick, so if you don't like it, it's over soon," he said.Risa Glaser, event organizer for 8 Minute Dating in Queens, Long Island and New Jersey, said 90 percent of the people who use the service meet someone whom they would like to see again. She said attendees fill out a dating card during the event, which they take home and use to plug in their matches on a computer. The service sends e-mail addresses and phone numbers to people who show mutual interest in one another based on their dating cards, she said."I've had a number of e-mails come back to me about people having success at their first event," she said. "I haven't had any engagements yet, but I'm working on it."Ellen, 41, of Forest Hills, said she dated someone she met at an event for a while, but added that she might take a break from dating services if she did not meet anyone interesting at last Thursday's event. But she said 8 Minute Dating incorporates an easygoing atmosphere for singles."It's nonthreatening," she said. "If someone is terrible, it could be the eight longest minutes of your life. But it goes fast."Glaser said the service will host several other speed dating events in the borough in upcoming months, including one at Bourbon Street in Bayside on March 19 at 7 p.m. She said she plans to host an event each month at Atlas Park. Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@times
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