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EMPTY CLASSROOMS, PACKED BUSINESSES A STUDY IN CONTRASTS DURING HOLIDAY SEASON

At Buffalo State College, you couldn't get into a classroom if you wanted to. The campus is locked up -- and the heat turned way down -- until Friday.

But at area liquor stores, fish markets, restaurants and movie theaters, you've got to elbow your way through the crowds.

"We'll sell tens of thousands of bottles of champagne in three days," said Burt Notarius, owner of Prime Wines in Kenmore.

The holiday season is a study in contrasts at area shops, businesses and schools.

Some people work like crazy. Others hardly work at all.

Today is a day for attorneys to come to the office in casual clothing for a few hours to clean up paperwork. Professors and students at Buffalo State were told a week ago -- in no uncertain terms -- to clear out.

The school's annual "winter shutdown reminder" instructed them to remove plants and aquariums, to clean out and unplug refrigerators, and to turn off fax machines, personal computers and printers.

"Plan ahead and be certain to take home all books, research material, etc. that might be needed during the shutdown period," the notice said.

In contrast, things were hopping at Prime Wines, where Notarius did twice the volume of a normal business day on Monday and expects to triple his usual daily sales both Tuesday and today.

And at Charlie's Seafoods in Hamburg, several hundred pounds of shrimp and more than 100 pounds of lobster will be sold before the shop closes this evening, said Paul Giambrone, who was manning the counter on Tuesday.

Rick Hahn, Pitney Bowe's district manager responsible for repairing and maintaining business machines, has his finger on the pulse of local commerce.

"Right now, it's business as usual," he said Tuesday. "The 30th is always a busy day."

Pitney Bowe's service representatives will also be in high gear this morning, but on their way home by mid-afternoon.

"By noon, our customers are pretty much shut down or having parties," Hahn said.

In Amherst, Highway Superintendent Thomas A. Wik on Tuesday was balancing snowplowing and Christmas tree pick-up schedules with holiday vacations.

He said about a third of the department's 160 full-time staff members are off this week, but that their phones will be ringing if the weather takes a nasty turn.

"Even if they're on vacation, they're still available," Wik said.

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