At about 11:40 a.m. on Thursday, nearly 40 H&M employees in black T-shirts that read “I’m > Drugs” in bright red gathered in the lobby of downtown Silver Spring’s newest shopping destination.
Minutes later, store employees spilled out onto the sidewalk dancing, clapping and cheering alongside the nearly 400 patrons lined up for the store’s grand opening at noon.
Patricia Bishop of Washington, D.C., was the first in line at the Swedish retailer, arriving at about 6 a.m. and standing in the cold. She was the recipient of a $300 gift card, chosen at random from a pile of Access to Fashion Passes for the first 100 customers.
“My friends told me about it and I was like ‘What time y’all say y’all getting up,’” she said, laughing. “And I was like yeah, I’m getting up. I’m feelin’ lucky this morning!”
Bishop was able to go into the store before the doors officially opened to have her own shopping spree — complete with a personal shopper. She was shopping for her granddaughter’s birthday this month and her daughter’s birthday in December.
“The store has got the fashion going on in here, yes. I think I’ll become an H&M shopper now,” Bishop said.
Christina Butler, 23, of Takoma Park said she heard about the opening on the radio and came out for a gift card. Though she didn’t win one, she was able to get a coupon when she arrived at 10:30 a.m.
“I just hope it brings a different shopping experience for me and everybody else,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of fashion stores around here. [H&M is] affordable and you can just look stylish.”
Silver Spring resident Alex Jain, 19, said he has always been a fan of H&M and was looking forward to the grand opening after reading about it.
“It’s a nice new store opening in the place of a store that became bankrupt, so it’s nice to see a new business in the area that’s been successful,” Jain said. “Hopefully it brings more business to the area and more people.”
The shopping center is owned by Fairfax, Va.-based The Peterson Companies, which said H&M was the “perfect fit” for the 18,000-square-foot storefront in downtown Silver Spring.
“They are fashion, they are not only women’s fashions but also men and children, a need this area has expressed,” said Laurie Yankowski, The Peterson Cos. regional marketing director. “They saw all of the same things that we did that make Silver Spring such a dynamic place to be.”
The store made about 30 local hires, H&M spokeswoman Nicole Christie wrote in an email. She said one of the keys to H&M’s success worldwide is that most of its collections are the same in every store.
H&M thinks the downtown Silver Spring location on Fenton Street will be a “great fit” for its brand.
“We always look for the best locations with the best business conditions, and as the region’s premier outdoor shopping center, Silver Spring definitely fits these requirements,” Christie said. “We want to make our collections available to more customers across the country and by opening another location in the greater D.C. metropolitan [area] at the heavily trafficked downtown center, we will be able to do so.”