Who were those shoppers with the Secret Service?

January 06, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

As peace talks between Israel and Syria in Shepherdstown, W. Va., moved into their fourth day Thursday, two women believed to be wives of Syrian participants took the opportunity to go shopping.

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Accompanied by three U.S. Secret Service agents and an aide, the two women spent more than three hours visiting several stores at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown Thursday afternoon.

"We're very happy that they chose to come here," said Alice Rosen, marketing director for Prime Outlets.

The peace talks began on Monday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown. President Clinton and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have attended.

Around 1:30 p.m. a black limousine, Ford sedan and Chevrolet Blazer pulled up to the curb at Prime Outlets.

Two women dressed in conservative, tailored suits got out of the limousine and browsed in 9-West, Bass and Johnston and Murphy stores as the men followed.


The Secret Service agents would not allow the press to speak to or photograph the women and would not provide details about them.

The stores remained open to other customers as the women shopped, paying in cash and apparently buying some men's items.

Wearing somber expressions, the Secret Service agents had the predictable wires running from their jackets to their ears. They weren't, however, wearing the stereotypical dark suits and sunglasses, opting instead for white dress shirts, khaki or dark dress pants and overcoats.

The conspicuous group was noticed by many of the shoppers.

"Who's here, the President?" asked at least three shoppers as they passed by.

"There must be somebody important in there," said another.

"Is it Madeleine Albright?" inquired someone else.

Outlet shoppers Helen Caron of Hagerstown and her friend Jean Corle of Cherry Hill, N.J., were quick to realize that some of the men accompanying the women were Secret Service agents.

They said they quickly put two and two together and figured out the people were somehow related to the Shepherdstown talks.

"It's exciting," said Corle.

"It's history in the making," said Caron.

The group's next stop was Timberland where they shopped for more than an hour before coming out with one woman carrying a large brown store bag.

A manager at Timberland said she was honored that they shopped at her store but refused to disclose what they purchased or its cost.

"I want to respect their privacy," she said.

Timberland carries jackets for men and women, shirts and pants and specializes in leather hiking boots.

The group stopped at the outlet's food court for about 30 minutes.

At least one Secret Service agent purchased a cup of coffee piled high with 3 inches of whipped cream from the Coffee House.

Store managers said they were not informed that anyone from the peace talks would be shopping Thursday or who the women were when they arrived.

"I knew something was up right away," said shopper Bryan Hamilton of Martinsburg, W.Va.

He said he thought it was interesting that the women chose to go shopping.

"They're allowed to have some free time just as long as they take care of business," he said referring to negotiations.

The women stopped briefly at the Eddie Bauer store and one purchased a $39.99 cream-colored fleece pullover that zipped in the front and had two side pockets. It was on sale for 20 percent off.

At the Gap, both women made purchases after spending more than an hour in the store.

Their last stop was the Brooks Brothers store where one woman spent some time matching men's blue and white dress shirts with ties and ended up buying a red tie with white diagonal stripes and a pair of boxer shorts.

Just before 5 p.m. the group returned to the three waiting vehicles and drove away.

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