SOUTH PORTLAND – It didn’t take Marlene Askinazi long to find a good deal at the new Bon-Ton department store.
Less than an hour after the store opened its first location in Maine on Thursday morning, the Portland resident had already found a great deal on boots and was perusing racks of shirts.
“It’s a really nice store,” Askinazi said. “I figured it would be mobbed. I’ll come back again later when it’s not so crazy.”
Askinazi was among hundreds of shoppers who crowded the store Thursday for its grand opening. Before the doors opened, a line of several hundred people wrapped around the building.
More than 1,000 customers came into the store in the first hour, said store manager Char Brunner.
Bon-Ton joins other anchor tenants such as Macy’s, Sears and JCPenney. It remodeled the 120,800-square-foot space vacated by Filene’s in 2006.
The arrival of the York, Pa.-based chain in Maine puts the mall at 100 percent capacity, unusual for regional malls, whose vacancy rate hovered around 8.6 percent in the fourth quarter last year, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc.
Alton Walker, Bon-Ton’s regional vice president, said the company is excited to move into a mall that is fully occupied.
Feedback from shoppers has so far been positive, Brunner said. She said customers seem to like the bright and inviting atmosphere, and told her they have missed having a department store in that location.
“They say it’s a pleasant experience and they feel like they’re back home,” she said.
Darcy Murphy of Portland and Sondra Caserio of New Gloucester were shopping together Thursday morning. They said they came expecting good bargains and were undeterred by the crowds.
“In Maine, store openings are about the most exciting thing there is,” Caserio said.
Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: