Bargain hunters are a dedicated, hardy bunch. But to show up en masse in the middle of the night — with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark — hours before the new It's $5 store was to open its doors?
Shortly after 9 a.m. when the doors opened and with hundreds of shoppers already allowed inside, lines still stretched in both directions to the ends of the former JCPenney space at the Mall of the Bluffs.
Ed King, of Fremont, Nebraska, said he'd been standing in line for 20 to 25 minutes after driving an hour to get here for the opening.
King said he and his wife had driven 11 hours to get to a similar store in Tennessee, and they were anxious to see what a store 10 hours closer to home had to offer.
Although the Council Bluffs and the Tennessee store share nothing but the concept, Ryan Wager, owner of the Council Bluffs facility, said It's $5 is an outlet for products that are overstocked goods purchased from online retail suppliers, items that have been returned and did not have the proper packaging to be resold.
Earlier this month Wager told The Nonpareil he saw a need for this concept when he heard of Kmart, Toys R Us and Younkers store closings in the area.
The concept is simple: On Saturday and Sunday, every item in the store is $5; on Monday, the items are two for $5. Tuesdays see everything in the store sold at three for $5, and on Thursdays everything in the store is available at 10 items for $5.
Christina Niemann of Council Bluffs was still waiting in line to get into the store.
Asked if she planned to do some of her Christmas shopping once she got into the store, she said she wasn't sure, but she just wanted to see what the hype was about.
Lisa Cline, of Council Bluffs, had been standing in line for about five minutes. She said she might have come earlier but she saw a Facebook posting showing long lines and mentioning that people had brought lawn chairs so they could sit down while waiting.
"I just wanted to see what it's all about," Cline said, "but if I find some good things for Christmas, it's a bonus.”
Like others waiting in the outdoor line, Lori Westlake, of Omaha, said she was "just looking" but was anxious to see what the store had to offer.
Inside, customers were doing more than looking.
"I'm in the middle of checking out about a thousand customers right now," Wager, the store owner said. "Can we talk later?"
Contacted later, Wager said he was elated by the turnout.
"Everything's fantastic," he said. There are at least 200 in line to check out and another 500 in the store shopping. I just saw a guy check out with a PS-4, a headset and a projector, all for $15."
Prior to the store's opening, Wager said he had a license agreement for the JCPenney space as a holiday store to test the concept of It's $5 in Council Bluffs.
"Assuming it works and takes off, we will be here for the long haul," he said earlier this month.
With 15 years of experience in start-up and entrepreneurship, Wager wrote the software and designed the business concept with partners in Kansas City; but he wanted to open his own locations in Council Bluffs. His father, who lives in Shelby, works at the store, along with his grandmother.
"I'm assuming next weekend — Black Friday — will be the same as it is today," Wager said. "I think we're going to stay. I'm thinking there are possibilities of opening It's $5 stores in Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines and Harlan."
- Nonpareil reporter Susan Payne contributed to this story.
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