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Shoppers Head Downtown for Last-Minute Christmas Gifts

By Emily Morris | December 23, 2012 6:28pm

DOWNTOWN — Whether it was from a lack of snow to get into the holiday spirit or perhaps just the usual procrastination, some stragglers hit downtown stores to buy last-minute Christmas gifts on Sunday.

At Macy's, 111 N. State St., employees working some of the store's special midnight to 11 p.m. holiday hours assisted shoppers who grabbed up some of the jewelry, clothes and toys they'd been putting off all season.

Standing by one of the store's pink displays of cheetah handbags and frilly holiday decorations, Joe Johnson looked particularly out of place as he studied a leather wallet.

He still needed to find something for his wife, who usually braves the malls for their holiday shopping, Johnson, of surburban Elmwood Park, admitted.

"As long as I get out of here in a little while, I'll be fine," Johnson said.

At Macy's, foot traffic on the first floor was relatively light as crowds ebbed and flowed Sunday afternoon. The fifth floor, which houses children's toys, was a different story. 

Sustainable toy shop owner Dianne Peterson, of suburban Batavia, weaved through the kid's section with her husband and two kids.

Peterson noted the irony of procrastinating on her shopping even as her own store is decked out for the holidays. She chalked it up to the city's less-than-cheery holiday forecast.

"The way the weather's been, you can't get in the mood," Peterson said.

But rather than buy gift cards, which Peterson said "are some of the worst gifts ever," she's set her sights on finding a gift that's classic and "multigenerational," she said.

Peterson was particularly excited to see a earth-friendly version of Connect Four, made of wood instead of the usual plastic, in stores this year, Peterson said.

"It's no gift if you're destroying the earth," Peterson said.

Far longer than any line to purchase gifts was the massive wait parents and their children endured to meet the big man, who was tucked safely within Macy's enclosed "Santa Land."

"We were in it before and we bailed, but then we came back," said Andy Eltzfoth of suburban Lombard, who decided to stick it out with his 5-year-old daughter, Emma. She planned on asking for a Barbie Jeep.

"We're trying to be patient," Eltzfoth said as his daughter calmly played Temple Run on his iPhone.

"Except for this line, it's been managable," said Richard Grondek, of the Loop, who waited more than an hour and a half with his two granddaughters so they could meet Kris Kringle. 

Before that, he scoured the city for weeks to find the elusive archery set from Disney Pixar's Brave, which was rumored to be nearly sold out at Chicago's Disney stores Sunday afternoon.

He managed to seize one of the few left that morning, Grondek said.

A few miles away at the Apple Store, 679 N. Michigan Ave, customers enjoyed unusually short lines and plenty of room to breathe Sunday afternoon as they shopped for some of the most saught-after holiday gifts.

Mexico City resident Illiana Naba said she and her husband hoped to see some flurries when they got flew in Sunday morning to visit Chicago.

Faced with none, they attempted to get into the holiday spirit and tackle their belated Christmas shopping at the same time. The throngs of people were much lighter than they expected and her husband, Ruben Romero, noted that other tech stores were similarily uncrowded on Sunday.

At one of the store's wooden counters, their 5- and 10-year-old sons were transfixed by the iPad mini.

Her kids will likely be asking St. Nick for one of those, Naba said as she hoisted her younger son up to reach the high-tech toy.

"Santa will consider," Naba said with a wink.