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NEW YORK — Shopping, understandably, was not high on the list of priorities for most stormwatchers Monday. In fact, many resorted to walking in the rain, exercising and in some cases praying for the best at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Several passersby watched CNN’s Soledad O’Brien deliver storm updates outside of the Time-Warner Center. After more than six hours of coverage, O’Brien said she would be weathering the elements with lots of layers — North Face gloves, CNN anorak, baseball cap and plastic-bag-covered feet tucked into knee-high rain boots. She and other CNN staffers would be staying at nearby hotels when not working. “I live in Chelsea. I could walk but it would be a bit of A schlep in an out-and-out hurricane,” she saId. “I’ve covered a lot of hurricanes. What’s different about this one is it’s cold. It’s all about staying warm.”
With no stores open in Midtown, many Fifth Avenue shoppers wandered into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a few were new to the rules they found. “No phone?” one woman with a cellphone clapped to her ear asked as she passed by a security guard. “Not unless you’re calling 9-1-1.” he responded.
Shaking his head at the throngs of people entering the church, he said traffic was considerably busier than on a typical Monday morning. “There are a lot of people. I’d be home watching TV,” he said.
Even the Fifth Avenue landmark, which only closes early on major holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day, planned to have reduced hours Monday with a 7 p.m. close.
Outdoors, many tourists found themselves at a loss for things to do. “Is that Saks?” one asked, staring up at the boarded windows. “Banana Republic looks closed too,” a man with two children in tow said disappointingly. Several out-of-towners posed for photos in front of the boarded-up windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and the sand bags that lined Michael Kors’ Rockefeller Center store.
Standing in the rain outside of the Kors store, Austrian visitors Tanja Nimpf and Christoph Aigner said they had hoped “to visit the shops” but would retreat to their Midtown hotel instead. Several German tourists said they were unfazed about scrubbing their shopping plans. At St. Patrick’s, John Claudia said, “We’re just relaxing. We will go to Central Park. We’re walking. It’s no problem — no stress.”
Just in from London, Sharon Donovan and her daughter Jenny hit the Levi’s store, a few souvenir shops and Times Square before heading back to their Midtown hotel. “We’re not leaving until Wednesday so we will try to shop again.”
Angelique and Matthew Grassi planned to check out Forever 21 and Topshop. Grassi, a sales director for the Danish clothing label Veron Moda said, “Everybody is happy. It is a good time.”
At the Shops at the Time-Warner Center, the New York Running Company was the only retail store open for business Monday. The 19-unit Denver-based retailer used its Facebook page to let customers know the New York City shop would be open Monday and guests from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel had wandered over to shop, said assistant manager Dan Winter said. “We should tweet,” a fellow employee added. Shoppers — and a handful of them were trying on sneakers and running clothes Monday morning — found a sign at the cash registers that read “Frankenstorm is all hype.”
“Last year we stayed open during Hurricane Irene. Obviously, this is a drastically different situation. But we had a really great day last year and we thought we would give it a go today,” Pinter said. “We will probably close at three or four. If it gets worse, we don’t want to keep anybody here and put them in danger.”
Visiting from the U.K., Marion Hodges said she and her son Philip, who lives in San Francisco, had bought some activewear to use at the Mandarin Oriental’s fitness center. Nearby at Per Se, staffers were busy preparing for what would be a limited seating dinner for Mandarin guests.
A floor below, several Time Warner Center residents and Mandarin Hotel guests grabbed a coffee at Thomas Keller’s Boucheron bakery. In the lower level of the Time-Warner Center, Equinox’s fitness center and shop planned to be open for normal business hours Monday and throughout the week. Apparently, members had plenty of time to shop, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. Assistant manager Manny Gross said Sunday had been busy with many shoppers buying Equinox’s private label $100 hooded jackets and $98 Nation T-shirts. At the 76th Street location, Monday morning’s busy club traffic was comparable to a Saturday morning — prime time for the fitness chain, a company spokeswoman said. “Everybody is at the gym I guess,” she said.