Huge Harry Potter store opens in New York

New York (AFP) –

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Wearing Hogwarts robes and witches' hats, hundreds of Potterheads sipped Butterbeer and posed for photos in Hagrid's giant shoes as New York's long-awaited Harry Potter store, the biggest in the world, opened Thursday.

Fans of the boy wizard queued for hours in heavy rain to be among the first inside the three-story shop in Lower Manhattan that hosts the largest collection of Potter products anywhere.

"It's really magical," said Margaret Suarez, whose boyfriend arrived at 6:00 am (1100 GMT) to hold a spot in line four hours ahead of opening.

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Suarez, 30, quickly eyed a wand belonging to witch Bellatrix Lestrange to go with the patronus charm memorabilia and funko pop figures that were already in her shopping bag.

"In my heart, I'm a wizard," Suarez told AFP. "I really want to get a wand and personalize it so I can live my best fantasy," the New Yorker added.

Ruben Juarez, 27, and his wife traveled from Dallas, Texas for the grand opening of the 21,000 square-foot (1,950 square meters) store that is near the Flatiron building.

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"We're excited to be here. I love everything Harry Potter," said Juarez, wearing the scarlet and gold scarf of the house of Gryffindor.

Large crowds gathered outside the store throughout the morning, with even a few police officers called to ensure order was maintained, as Potterheads waited for their timed ticket entry.

Inside, fans of J. K Rowling's magical world snapped selfies in front of a red telephone box like the one that transports witches and wizards to the Ministry of Magic, and bought fizzing whizbees candy.

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They tried on knitted quidditch jumpers, flicked through copies of the best-selling book series in history and sampled the wizards' favorite drink at the Butterbeer bar.

"Butterbeer is like cream soda but with a kick to it. It's unlike anything, honestly," explained 21-year-old Emilee Rodriguez.

The flagship store was due to open last summer but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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For 19-year-old Alexandra Ewing, the wait for her first visit to a Potter store was worth it.

"I'm having the time of my life. I'm fighting back tears this whole time, I'm loving it," she told AFP.