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Stores, malls take break on Christmas Day, reboot with early hours on Dec. 26

While many people wolfed down turkey dinners to head to the stores on Thanksgiving this year, that won't be the case on Christmas Day.

Stores are keeping with tradition and staying closed. At some point, people do trump profits.

Rest assured, the spending hiatus won't last long. Stores and malls will reboot the registers first thing Dec. 26 with enticing post-holiday sales.

The day after Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year for many retailers, with shoppers rushing in to redeem gift cards and exchange those slippers they said they loved a day ago but really can't stand.

A few early birds will open at 7 a.m. Dec. 26: Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, Westfield Brandon and Ellenton Premium Outlets. International Plaza in Tampa will match its longest hours of the holiday season, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. That's the same as Black Friday and the only days except Dec. 24 for such an early start.

Other malls hours for Dec. 26: Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; University Mall in Tampa, 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Westfield Citrus Park, Westfield Countryside and WestShore Plaza, all 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

If you need a last-second gift, most Walgreens and CVS stores will be open, as will 7-Eleven and Starbucks, at least until midday. Pick up a gift card, and your friends and family will never know you forgot about them until Christmas Day.

I generally say no when doughnuts come within grabbing distance, which seems quite often. But I recently made an exception for Nicola's Donuts.

The 30-year-old shop in Tampa has some of the tastiest dough rings around and was voted "One of America's Best Donuts" by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2010. When Gov. Rick Scott wanted to be chief doughnut maker for a day, he picked Nicola's.

The shop has two locations, one at 902 W Busch Blvd. that sells mostly doughnuts and a newer one at 14390 N Dale Mabry Highway that also does cupcakes and pastries. Sisters Rachel Waatti and Michele Kaw took over the business about two years ago, embracing the legion of loyal customers who grew up on Nicola's glazed, candied and powdered treats.

Regulars of the Busch store know to come early. Hours are 5:30 a.m. to noon or until they sell out, which occasionally happens and no doubt has ruined a person's morning.

Waatti says their doughnuts are worth a trip past the big chains. For starters, they are bigger and come in surprising varieties, from s'mores to Oreo to PB&J. They use Madagascar bourbon vanilla and European chocolate, but no preservatives or artificial flavors. In a world that needs more sweet, they go heavy on the sprinkles.

In honor of its 30th anniversary, Nicola's is having a Facebook contest to create the 2013 Cupcake of the Year using a playoff bracket-style voting system. During the first round, which ends today, fans pick their favorite cake flavor. The second round will decide the frosting, and the final round the topping. The winning cupcake will be announced Jan. 1 and served free all year long with every purchase of a dozen cupcakes.

Red velvet with pink vanilla buttercream and rainbow sprinkles sounds fabulous to me.

If you got caught in a long line at the post office on Monday, here's why: The U.S. Postal Service expected to handle 658 million cards and packages, more than any day of the year. Friday is the last day to send an item priority mail to arrive by Christmas, but that's cutting it close, depending on how far it has to travel.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Stores, malls take break on Christmas Day, reboot with early hours on Dec. 26 12/17/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 17, 2012 11:41pm]
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