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Black Friday rush hits Dawson County's outlet mall
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It was impossible to get close to The North Face outlet at the North Georgia Premium Outlets on Thursday night as shoppers packed the sidewalk, waiting for their chance to get in and shop the early Black Friday deals. - photo by Allie Dean

By 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night, there wasn’t a parking space to be found in the parking lot of the North Georgia Premium Outlets.

Drivers created makeshift spaces at the end of rows, on curbs and in nearby, empty shopping centers. Circumventing the mall would take 30 minutes at least — traffic stopped dead wherever shoppers were seen taking bags back to cars.

Three women outside the Ugg Australia outlet on Thursday stood in line for 15 minutes before they were able to enter the store. Parking, they said, had taken over half an hour.

“I always shop here around Christmas time, but I’ve never been here on Black Friday,” said Deanna Dammond, 42, of Rome. “I was like, ‘Is this the line?’ It’s interesting.”

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Deanna Dammond, her stepdaughter Atlantrish and her daughter Markesha wait in line Nov. 23, 2017, outside the Ugg Australia outlet in Dawsonville. The three, who drove from Rome, were purchasing a pair of boots for another of Dammond’s daughters. - photo by Allie Dean

Dammond and her daughter Markesha, 20, and stepdaughter Atlantrish, 33, had a game plan.

They had already been to Timberland but were eyeing the Vera Bradley store next. Dammond said there isn’t a Vera Bradley outlet where she lives.

The availability of hard-to-find outlets is a big draw for many customers. The Dawsonville mall, owned by Simon Malls, has many outlets that don’t exist anywhere else in Georgia, including The North Face and Tory Burch.

Coach, which normally has one of the longest lines, was offering 70 percent off everything in the store.

Other stores with long lines included the Nike Factory Store, the Luxury Beauty Store, GameStop, Kate Spade, Fossi and Michael Kors. Tory Burch and Nike were rivals for the longest lines; the Tory Burch queue of bundled-up shoppers wrapped around the store and down another aisle.

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The Nike Factory store at the North Georgia Premium Outlets was packed Thanksgiving night 2017, with a long line that stretched far outside the store. - photo by Allie Dean

The lines continued into the night and into Friday morning. Security guards stood at the door of many stores, counting customers to keep occupancy compliant with fire codes.

The mall opened at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving night, with many stores opening even earlier. Mall management gave stores options to close at 2 a.m. and re-open at 6 a.m., but many announced to passersby that they wouldn’t be closing at all. Some stores, like Burberry, didn’t open at all on Thanksgiving.

Heather Halpern, general manager of the shopping center, said the option for the middle-of-the-night break was a new idea started last year but that it was one they intend to continue.

“Providing the best shopping experience is always our top goal, and we determined that giving our retailers that option was the best way to enhance our shoppers’ experience,” Halpern said. “Our retailers are not required to open all night, but the majority prefer to do so based on shopper interest.”