One potential customer shouted the time remaining until 5 a.m. Friday while standing in line with dozens of others at Best Buy along 39th Street in Independence.

“Only three minutes to go!”

One potential customer shouted the time remaining until 5 a.m. Friday while standing in line with dozens of others at Best Buy along 39th Street in Independence.

Judging by the amount of traffic driving up and down one of the city’s busiest retail corridors, the minutes leading up to the magic hour suggested it was actually 5 p.m. on the day known as Black Friday. The line for Best Buy snaked down past its neighboring business Barnes & Noble, and to the west, customers also formed a lengthy line at Shoe Carnival.

Blue Springs resident Yenmei Tam and her husband led the line at Best Buy in anticipation of a Sony computer. The couple skipped Thanksgiving dinner and camped outside the consumer electronics store starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.

The man second in line, Independence resident Ilyas Khan, said this year marked his first Black Friday experience. He described his 12-hour wait in line as “bitter.”

“I did not expect it to be this cold,” Khan said, wearing a stocking cap. He had brought a comforter and soon formed a friendship with the Tams. Yenmei Tam – “a wonderful lady,” Khan said – offered the man her chair.

“I would get up occasionally to warm myself up,” said Khan, adding that he did eat Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

Because his daughter is soon starting graduate school in Atlanta, Khan wanted to buy her a Sony computer. Earlier this week, he looked online for Black Friday sales and then bought a newspaper filled with sales fliers at QuikTrip.

Black Friday is an annual ritual for 26-year-old Kevin Wolf, a Waverly, Mo., resident, who also stood near the start of the Best Buy line.

“Anything and everything,” Wolf said of what was on his shopping radar, but like Tam and Khan, he mostly wanted a discounted Sony laptop. He showed up for the wait at 6 p.m. Thursday, but Wolf first enjoyed an all-you-can-eat turkey dinner at Ryan’s on 23rd Street.

The Best Buy customers got a late start compared to several neighboring retailers. Kohl’s opened at 3 a.m., and the parking lots for Walmart and Target in Independence were already packed full with vehicles before 5 a.m.

Applause broke out as the security gates at Best Buy were raised, and the customers filtered through the doors in a relatively calm manner. One store associate told an Independence Police Department officer that the crowd was the calmest he had seen it in recent years.   

“It’s every year,” said Gary Reid, general manager at Best Buy as he watched the customers walk in. “It’s great. I love it.”

Best Buy employees don’t necessarily count the number of people waiting in line on Black Friday, but rather they judge the line based on how far it extends to neighboring businesses.

“It’s better than last year – I can tell you that much,” Reid said at 5:15 a.m. “This is a really good start to the day.”  

Some data suggest the economy is in a rebound based on increasing retail sales. Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the monthly sales for October, concluding that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales had increased 1.2 percent compared to September and had increased 7.3 percent compared to October 2009. (The estimates were adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences.)

For many, the holiday spending is just beginning. In two days, Cyber Monday will get under way, a term that says it coined five years ago. The site says about nine in 10 retailers will have a special promotion for Cyber Monday. The site featured a “Deal of the Hour” on Black Friday and will do the same on Cyber Monday, showcasing a different retail promotion every 60 minutes.  

Across the street, at Independence Center, customers filtered in as the mall opened its doors at 5 a.m. Cousins Tesha Buhrmeister, 25, and Jessica Holman, 21, said they’ve visited the indoor shopping mall every year for a decade.

Since they live in Odessa and Oak Grove, Buhrmeister and Holman wake up at 4 a.m. to make the trip to Independence, which boasts what many consider one of only two thriving indoor shopping malls remaining in the Kansas City area. (The other, according to many, is Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.) Both Buhrmeister and Holman said they like that the mall is enclosed and has easy access.

“It’s just a yearly thing we always do,” Buhrmeister said, adding that the women don’t set out with a particular purchase in mind. “We just walk around the mall and see what we can find.”

As the morning wears on, Buhrmeister said, the stores appear less busy, adding on Friday, “It’s actually pretty slow today.”

Their Black Friday experience always ends the same: The cousins enjoy a breakfast at Bob Evans Restaurant on 39th Street.

By 5:20 a.m., a mere 20 minutes after the hours of waiting had ended, Ilyas Khan left Best Buy with one shopping bag in hand: the Sony laptop computer.

“I know that they may have a limited quantity, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity, so that’s why I came early to secure a spot,” he said. “Yes, I’m satisfied. I had never done this before, and I think my hard work paid off.”