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At $19.98, the Price Is Right

January 01, 1998|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They have been looking forward to this occasion all year and the lines will begin forming at dawn. The wait will be long but, wrapped in blankets, sipping coffee from steaming mugs, these bright-eyed early birds won't be complaining. They know the event will be worth the wait.

Tickets for the Rolling Stones? A Howard Stern book signing?

"No, better! Much, much better!" gushes Amanda Rooney of Pasadena, a veteran of several such New Year's waits. "I mean, with this event, you go home with bags full of great clothes. With a parade or a concert, it's over in a few hours. This way, you can celebrate every day--until next year's sale."

It is as much a tradition as a New Year's Day hangover, but considerably more fun. It's CP Shades' annual New Year's sale, where every item in every store is marked down to match the new year--this year, to $19.98. Since 1984 (when everything was priced at $19.84), the Sausalito-based chain of clothing stores has rewarded its customers with up to four days of discounts on merchandise normally priced from $38 to $102. This year, the sale will run from Friday through Monday.

"Originally, it was a way to get rid of merchandise, but now we couldn't stop the sale if we wanted to. It's a true event," says David Weinstein, who with his wife, Denise, founded the company that now has 36 stores from Boston to Santa Barbara. "Everybody's taking off their clothes, throwing stuff on, trading pants and shirts with other shoppers. It's wild."

Too wild for one longtime customer at last year's sale. The woman waited patiently outside for her turn inside one Southern California store, but as Weinstein tells it, when she was ready to try on her selections, found there were no dressing rooms.

In true L.A. style, she whipped out her cell phone and summoned the fire department, which cleared the store until a fire marshal was certain the store wasn't overcrowded. Since then, that store has doubled its space. "We hope it'll be enough," sighed Weinstein on Monday.

Happy New Year.

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