Music

Kanye West ‘pop-up’ store in Boston draws a crowd

They’d been there all night, some of them.

Since Thursday, when Kanye West announced the location of a Boston “pop-up” store selling clothing linked to his album “The Life of Pablo,” fans of the Chicago-bred rapper/clothing designer had been stationed on a patch of concrete at 899 Boylston St., waiting.

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It hadn’t always been easy. “After 3 a.m.,” explained Erin Cancinos, 28, “that’s when you have to be tough.” But now it was 9:30 a.m., just a half hour before the store was set to open, and their persistence had paid dividends.

The line behind them now stretched around the block, down Gloucester Street, and snaked far down a nearby alleyway. Hundreds of young people waited for the opportunity to walk into an otherwise unremarkable storefront to purchase T-shirts, hats, and bomber jackets marked with the Kanye West stamp of approval.

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And the excitement was palpable.

Suzanne Kreiter\Globe staff

A Kanye West pop-up store on Boylston Street had fans lined up around the block and into an alley.

Never mind that West himself would not be present. Or that the Boston store was one of just 13 West “pop-ups” scheduled to open this weekend across the country.

This, insisted those gathered outside, was an event.

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From his place in line, a 19-year-old named Shiloh Moore smiled. He’d driven into Boston the previous day from New Hampshire for this, despite the fact that the list of items for sale — or the “menu,” as one store employee called it — would not be revealed until shortly before the store opened.

“Let me show you this picture,” he said, holding up a cracked cellphone screen to display a photo of himself lying on what must have been dozens of pieces of West merchandise.

Nearby, on the sidewalk, a middle-aged man named Mark Furman stood, a family man on a vacation that had somehow been hijacked by a hip-hop star. He and his family were visiting from England. Friday was their only full day in town, and they’d had plans for a 9 a.m. duck boat tour.

But then his two sons — Max, 11, and Joe, 13 — had heard about the store and decided it wasn’t something they were prepared to miss, and so now the two youngsters were nestled somewhere among the throng of people while their father stood on a nearby sidewalk.

“This wasn’t what I had in mind,” he acknowledged.

As 10 a.m. approached, employees trickled into the store. A truck pulled up out front and a man delivered some boxes. On her way inside, one female employee in a tank top surveyed the crowd and yelled, “Get your paper ready!”

This was not bad advice. According to the single-sheet catalog that had been handed out to some customers in line, the cheapest item available was a $45 hat. The most expensive was a $325 military-style jacket, and hoodies and crew-neck sweatshirts went for around $100 apiece. These were actually bargain prices compared to what you could expect to pay to online resalers.

Of the military jacket, a shirtless man in line who gave his name only as “Ty M” said, “I’m sure it’s online for $1,500.”

As for the draw of waiting hours for the right to purchase a $75 long-sleeve T-shirt tied to an album?

“Exclusivity,” said 18-year-old Carolina Fernandez of Newton. “You want to be the only one with the thing [he’s selling].”

Passersby had a harder time making sense of the spectacle.

“Excuse me,” asked a middle-aged woman walking by. “Do you know what’s happening here?”

“Excuse me,” asked a middle-aged man, not 30 seconds later. “Do you know what’s going on?”

On Gloucester St., a Boston EMS truck waited at a stop sign, windows rolled down.

“What’s this all about?” asked the woman in the passenger seat.

“Kanye West!” yelled someone in the crowd.

“Tickets or something?” she said.

“Shirts!” someone yelled.

She nodded. The truck pulled forward.

Suzanne Kreiter\Globe staff

Jon Sherman (left) and Kobla Hargett of Boston showed off their merchandise.

The line continued to grow. At one point, word came that the store wouldn’t open for at least another hour. And indeed, 10 a.m. came and went. How does the old Kanye lyric go? I’mma be at least about a hour late.

No problem. The crowd figured out ways to kill time. Music played. Marijuana smoke drifted skyward. Near the back of the line, where a Bud Light truck was making a delivery, a guy in an Adidas shirt attempted to hawk his own Kanye West merchandise.

Never been worn! he yelled.

Why wait in line when you can have it now? he yelled.

Most ignored him.

The hour grew later. The crowd grew antsier.

Every so often, the door of the store would crack open, and there would be a small murmur in the crowd. Each time, it was just an employee, coming or going.

Then at 11:12 a.m., the door opened once again.

A security guard — dressed in an ensemble of black pants, gray button-down shirt, and security badge that did not immediately appear to come from the Kanye collection — stepped out.

He surveyed the crowd.

Slowly, he counted off 12 people.

One by one, the chosen hustled inside, leaving the rest of the crowd to wait and wonder.

Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.
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