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Eleventh hour Santas make final shopping stops

Jackson Wade, left, 3, helps his mother, Lessie Wade of Cordele pick out just the right Christmas tree ornament Thursday at the Albany Mall.

Jackson Wade, left, 3, helps his mother, Lessie Wade of Cordele pick out just the right Christmas tree ornament Thursday at the Albany Mall.

ALBANY — To certified “crowd-phobes,” just the parking lot on Friday was enough to send a chill — multiple layers of steel and glass wrapped tight and wide around Albany Mall and sent new shoppers on an asphalt hike from as far as Dawson Road.

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Diane Moses of Preston has her hands full as she shops Thursday for her final Christmas gift items at Albany Mall.

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From left, Brenda Hicks, Otis Hicks, Keri McCrary, Mike McNeely and Lauren Stadnick were doing some last-minute shopping at Albany Mall Thursday.

Hidden away from the worst of the throng, Otis Hicks from Sylvester waited for his wife, Brenda, Worth County Clerk of Court, and daughter, Ashlei to emerge from Belk.

“I’m not quite the shopping type,” said Hicks, “I’ll tell you right now. Put me in a Home Depot or a Lowe’s, over by the power tools and I would feel a lot better.”

Hicks hoped to be dropping by one of those establishments later in the day, he said, anticipating looking at the nail guns.

“Maybe if I just act like I’m buying one it’ll flush out something somebody has already bought for me,” Hicks said.

Brenda and Ashlei Hicks arrived from Belk just then, to talk about things they were out for.

“We’re trying to get everything done today,” Brenda Hicks said, “We have one more thing to do for my mom — maybe a nice outfit for church.”

Keri McCrary studies law in Athens and was at the mall because she “forgot about her brother,” she said, and decided to pick something up. It seemed clear McCrary wasn’t yet enjoying herself.

“Its a jungle in here,” she said. “I’ll have to go to Starbuck’s after this to recover.” McCrary plans to return to Athens after “having a little fun” around the New Year holiday, she said.

At the mall with McCrary was her friend, Lauren Stadnick. The pair had grown up together “from diapers and everything,” McCrary said. Unlike her friend from Athens, Stadnick really enjoys the crowds that come near holidays, she said.

Stadnick, who lives in Valdosta and has recently earned a degree in Early Childhood Education, is in Albany visiting her parents, she said.

According to Stadnick, she out shopping mostly “for the Christmas spirit” and already has everything wrapped and neatly placed under her “three trees.”

“I have a red and lime tree,” Stadnick said, “and also I have a lime and silver tree and a white tree with pink, purple, lime and turquoise ornaments. I’m definitely in the Christmas spirit.”

Even though McCrary and Stadnick have been friends from “babyhood” through high school, they were reunited for the first time in “five or six years,” Stadnick said.

Mike McNeely lives and works in Americus and returned for the mall for the second day this week, just to get “the Christmas experience” he said, and to make sure he didn’t miss getting something for all his family.

“There are a lot more people today than there were on Wednesday,” McNeely said. “I don’t really like standing in line, but you do what you have to do.”

The largest concentration of mall activity seemed left of the food court through the big clothing and department stores. Latasha Sanders, a clothing clerk at Belk, described the action as “really busy”.

“It’s a lot busier than last year this time,” Sanders said. “Maybe that’s a good sign for everybody.”

Sales at many of the kiosks were hot as well, including the Verizon Center toward the middle of the mall.

“Phones always sell well,” said Tommy McCrary, location manger at Verizon, “but its really strong at Christmas. People buy them for their families and especially their children. Kids like the variety of colors we offer.”

Jewelry moved better this year as well, according to Richard Bolin, manager of Reeds Jewelers. In fact, according to Bolin, overall December sales in Jewelry is “up by double digits” when compared against last year.

“Here its the ‘three Bs,’ ” Bolin said, “Brides, beads and bracelets.”

Lindsey Allen, her four-year-old daughter Hayden and her husband, Lucas, are from Baconton and wonder how they let themselves wait so long to shop, Lindsey Allen said.

“All we have left to do is for parents and in-laws, Lindsey Allen said, “but usually it’s wrapped up by now. We’ll never do this again. I mean, people-watching is fun, but this is crazy. Wednesday wasn’t nearly so bad.”