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'Star Wars' merchandise brings LI buyers out in 'Force'

Michael Quinn win a Chewbacca in a raffle

Michael Quinn win a Chewbacca in a raffle as part of new Star Wars items for sale starting midnight at Target on Friday, Sept. 4, 2015 in Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The six-inch Kylo Ren action figures for $19.99 went first and fast -- the new villain slated to debut in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was plucked off shelves at Target in Westbury as soon as the store released new "Star Wars" merchandise to the public at 12:01 a.m. Friday, capitalizing on the earliest opening possible on what has been dubbed "Force Friday."

Though the seventh movie in the "Star Wars" saga doesn't open until Dec. 18, the Walt Disney Co. called Sept. 4 "Force Friday" worldwide to create buzz around movie-related action figures, creatures, spaceships and more. Several Toys R Us and Target stores on Long Island opened as the clock struck midnight, joining flagship stores in larger cities nationwide.

The shopping was a family affair for the Wehrs of Wantagh, who split up to hit separate chains to make sure they saw merchandise exclusive to each one. Keith Wehr, 16, of Wantagh, snagged a 16-inch-tall, interactive Star Wars Legendary Jedi Master Yoda that trains users in lightsaber combat and more for $179.99 at Target. His father, also named Keith, was over at a Toys R Us. Amy Wehr, helping her son at Target, said her husband "has a 'Star Wars' secret room in the basement."

About 125 people were shopping at the Target by 12:30 a.m. Meanwhile, over at the Toys R Us in Massapequa, Ken Temprano, 44, was the first buyer to enter that store after midnight. He was seeking to expand his collection of "Star Wars" action figures, which he displays in his garage. "They've kept everything under wraps," Temprano, an arborist with the New York State Department of Transportation, said of the new items.

Indeed, while Temprano and about a dozen others had been waiting on beach chairs outside, employees inside the store were scurrying to open cartons that had been sequestered in the store's receiving department and loading the merchandise into awaiting empty aisles, store manager Byron King said.

Most buyers yesterday were men in their 30s and 40s who said they grew up watching "Star Wars" movies. One of the few children out shopping was Isabella Aversa, 10, of Plainview. She and her father, Vinnie, 41, a project manager for a telecom company, wore matching T-shirts advertising the upcoming "Star Wars" movie to the Target in Westbury. "I like 'Star Wars' a lot," Isabella said. "It has a creative story line."

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