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Home Depot to quench those 3 a.m. cravings

Starting Sunday, the 22nd Avenue store will be open around the clock for people who work odd hours, contractors and insomniacs.

Enough customers have been shopping at Home Depot late at night to persuade the store, at 2300 22nd Ave. N, to stay open 24 hours a day, beginning Sunday.

And who would those customers be?

Professionals such as doctors who work later shifts, according to Jim Stephens, store manager. Contractors also are among those who could use the added early-morning hours, Stephens said, and there always are late-night shoppers.

The store now is open from 6 a.m. to midnight. It is the 72nd of 931 Home Depots nationwide to become a 24-hour operation. Tampa also has a 24-hour Home Depot.

The 22nd Avenue store, which opened in St. Petersburg five years ago, is Home Depot's fourth-largest store.

Staying open 24 hours "is a phenomenon that is fairly new," said Don Harrison, manager of public relations in Home Depot's Atlanta headquarters. "We went 24 hours with our first store in 1995, then went away from the idea and didn't come back to it until 1998 and 1999."

Harrison said that when there are customers in the store at 10, 11 p.m. and midnight, that is a message that longer hours are needed.

Stephens said employees work through the night anyway, either closing down after midnight or preparing to open the store at 6 a.m. So it will not be that much of a stretch to stay open 24 hours.

Harrison added, "If you've got a third shift in there getting ready, why not open the doors and do a little business?"

Lowe's Home Improvement Center, the nation's second-largest home improvement store, behind Home Depot, just opened a superstore across 22nd Avenue from Home Depot. Initially, Lowe's planned to close at 9 p.m. but changed to match Home Depot's closing time of midnight.

Paul Ierardi, manager of Lowe's, at 2365 25th St. N, said no decision had been made about whether his store would match the 24-hour operation.