BOSTON – Despite Puritan-era laws that prohibit most stores in Massachusetts from doing business on Thanksgiving, lines were 30-shoppers long at 10 p.m. inside a CompUSA Inc. outlet in the Brighton neighborhood.
The national computer retailer and a small chain of Asian supermarkets opened their doors Thursday to customers in Boston and other communities seemingly in defiance of the state's blue laws.
Cars overflowed from the tiny parking lot and spilled onto the sidewalks outside CompUSA. Shoppers dashed through the rain to join a mad scramble for sale items.
"I'm poor, but I love stuff," Mary Jo Kane said, explaining why she ventured outside in such foul weather.
"Like this, a 250 gigabyte hard drive ... it's like magic," she said, gripping it in one hand with a wet advertisement crumpled between two fingers. Her other arm cradled more electric gear.
Massachusetts' blue laws prohibit most stores, including large supermarkets and department stores, from opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But CompUSA manager Brian Hall said the store had a permit from Boston police to open at 9 p.m. for a three-hour sale.
CompUSA's Woburn store also acquired a police permit and it too was packed with holiday shoppers.
"About 500 people are in the store right now," store manager Christine Haskell said shortly after opening, "and they're all soaking wet."
Massachusetts officials have said stores must have state approval to open on the holiday.
"We're confident retailers know the law and we will review any complaints that we receive," Meredith Baumann, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said Thursday.
The Super 88 Market, an Asian grocery chain, opened at some locations. Last year, police in Quincy and Boston forced Super 88 Market to close on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We are just helping the customer. Maybe they don't have time to shop before Thanksgiving," said Lucy Liu, manager at the Super 88 in Malden, speaking through a translator.
The original Super 88 store near Boston's Chinatown always opened on Thanksgiving to serve the surrounding Asian community, Liu said. When the business expanded and opened suburban stores, she said, the practice continued.
Bill Regan, 62, of suburban Malden, shopped at the Super 88 on Thursday and said he appreciated the store being open on the holiday.
"There are some items you can get here that you can't get at the small stores, things like fresh fruits and vegetables. If the other smaller stores can be open, why can't they (Super 88) be also?" Regan said.
At the CompUSA checkout line in Brighton, Kane conceded that she had mixed feelings about shopping on a day that 17th century moralists had hoped to protect from wanton consumerism.
"I'm torn," she said, "I get concerned about the culture this creates, but I have a huge shopping disorder."