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Stores keep their lights on


Christmas morning found Tom Snelling in the spices aisle of Safeway with a basket in one hand and a list in the other.

Snelling, visiting his wife's daughter in Canton, was under orders to bring home the building blocks for his wife's chocolate and coconut cakes.

"We're preparing dinner for them, and my wife gave me a list," Snelling said, happy to find a store open to fill it. "It's great for me, but I guess not from the perspective of the people who have to work here."

Celebrants who found their Christmases a little incomplete yesterday could find the missing pieces at stores open for the holidays, such as 7-Eleven, Royal Farms and, for the first time, some Safeways. Though some workers felt more festive than others, the shoppers they obliged were grateful for the service.

Kas Czarski of Canton realized yesterday morning that she had forgotten two items her Christmas dinner just couldn't do without. "I thought, 'Oh, Lord, what am I going to do?'" said the relieved Czarski, with a jar of sweet relish in one hand and a jar of pickles in the other. Now her family could have their traditional potato salad and slaw. "It's these little things that you thought you had. Thank God they're open."

As a lighted holiday tree flickered by the front door, and holiday tunes like "The Little Drummer Boy" pa-rum-pum-pum-pummed through the store, supermarket customers wrapped up their holiday needs.

Susan Kraus, on her way from Canton to New Jersey, realized she couldn't arrive without a present for a friend there. A stuffed dog in a hat that said "Ho, ho, ho" eased her mind.

"I didn't plan well," Kraus said with a sigh.

Busily stacking sausages and straightening packages in Safeway's frozen meat section, Curtis Clacks acknowledged that working the holiday wasn't the greatest. But being a holiday butcher has its perks. There's the holiday pay. And perhaps better yet, the Clacks family would be frying fresh turkey for their holiday dinner.

"It's a fringe benefit," Clacks, who lives in Northeast Baltimore, said with a smile.

Up the road at Royal Farms, people lined up during the cold morning for hot coffee.

Robert Beall, the Fleet Street store's assistant manager, breaded tubs of thick-cut potatoes in the back room and did his best to keep the coffee fresh and full in the carafes. Though he said that the holiday is "a time to be home with his family" and that he was hoping to get home in time for church, Beall looked forward to work so he could see "my people" at the store and what sort of folks would stop on Christmas.

Mostly it was people on the way from point A to point B, who needed a doughnut or something to sweeten the journey.

Of those people, Stephanie Geddings stood out.

In her pigtails, pink flannel pajamas and slippers, also pink and pouffed like cotton candy, she didn't look her 31 years. But, waiting to buy soda and ice cream, mints and Marlboros, she said that she and her siblings, all of them grown, drive this way to their mom's in Annapolis ever year.

"We still like to open our presents in our pajamas," she said with a giggle. "No matter where we are."

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