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Local stores caught up in Harry Potter fun

June 22, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Grant Speer, 12, waited in line for his turn at the counter at Waldenbooks in Chambersburg (Pa.) Mall on Saturday morning.

He was dressed appropriately for the occasion in a tall, pointy wizard hat, Hogwarts cape and wand. He held a jar of pickled shrunken Mandrake heads in his left hand.

It was a scene repeated all over America as the long-awaited fifth book in the Harry Potter adventure series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," hit the bookstands. It's been three years since the last one came out.

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The publishers put a ban on sales until midnight Friday.

Kelly White, a supervisor at Borders Books Music & Cafe in Hagerstown, said more than 1,000 copies of British author J.K. Rowling's latest book on the young wizard were reserved at the store. Orders for the book began coming in January, she said.

People began coming into Borders around 8 p.m. Friday. Borders and other Tri-State area bookstores held Harry Potter parties and trivia games to keep their customers occupied until midnight.

"It was unbelievably crowded," White said.

Customers who reserved books signed in as they entered the store. At midnight they were lined up in groups of 50 and the sale began.

The marked selling price is $29.99. Borders sold the book at 40 percent off. It was selling for $16.17 at Wal-Mart early Saturday morning.

Asked about the Harry Potter phenomenon, White said: "The books are just wonderful. They're great stories of friendship and bravery. They get your imagination flowing. It gets kids reading again."

Kim Brown, a customer service coordinator at Marshalls department store next to Borders, was taking a break outside the store Saturday afternoon.

"At 10 p.m. last night, both of these lots were full," she said.

Brown said her two girls, ages 12 and 13, have copies of the new Potter book thanks to her sister, who bought them at a local grocery store. She paid full price, she said.

Her children don't read the books cover to cover, she said.

"They just read them here and there, but they've seen both movies," Brown said. "My mother has this thing that my kids have to have every edition."

Grant Speer said he's read all four Potter books four times.

"I like them because of the way he came from being abused to having everything going his way. He had faith and hope and knew he wasn't just an ordinary person," Speer said.

Speer said he also reads a lot of nonfiction history.

Justin Fickes, manager of Waldenbooks at Chambersburg Mall, said his reservation list was 400.

"The first book got a good deal of press and the demand started after that," Fickes said. "It grew exponentially. The fact that they had to wait three years made people want this book more."

John Potter, manager of Waldenbooks at Valley Mall in Halfway, said the store opened at 11 p.m. Friday. People were already lined up, and it was the largest midnight opening of any store in the mall, he said.

Tommy McPeak, manager of Waldenbooks in Martinsburg, W.Va., said the store opened two hours early, at 8 a.m. Saturday.

"There were people already waiting," he said.

He said he had 500 books reserved and only 60 or 70 were left Saturday evening.

All of McPeak's employees were called in for the Harry Potter book sale.

An assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Hagerstown said Saturday that customers started coming in at 9 p.m. Friday for the midnight sale.

"We were sold out by early this morning," she said.

Tricia Strite, assistant manager at Books 'n Things in Hagerstown, said this was the store's biggest Harry Potter sale ever.

The store held regular hours, had no lines and had reserved books plus plenty for walk-ins, she said. They sold for $19.99.

Ed Mitchell, general manager at Borders, said he thought Hillary Clinton's book had a good run when it came out recently.

"Now it's just a footnote of history," he said.

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