LIVERMORE -- The champagne flowed, the confetti cannons fired, and finally, it was time to shop at the Paragon Outlets mall in Livermore.
Hours after the high-end mall's opening Thursday, shopper Ellie Greenville from Walnut Creek struggled to carry three bags from Bloomingdale's, where she'd purchased Ugg brand boots at half price and designer jeans at huge discounts.
"I'm a little stressed out," she said. "I loaded up with a little more than I'd intended to. There are a lot of great deals."
Amy Chaplick of San Jose may have been the mall's earliest shopper. She arrived in Livermore on Wednesday to take advantage of preview sales at Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus' Last Call. And she was back early Thursday for the official opening, looking forward to patronizing the Armani and Prada outlet stores.
"The designer stores are drawing me here, because they're not the kind of stores Gilroy (outlet center) has," she said.
Chaplick, who was armed with discount coupons, said she scored a $1,000 Burberry trench coat for $200 at Bloomingdale's, a $400 pair of Ferragamo sandals for $120 at Neiman-Marcus Last Call and a $300 Armani top for $74.
While consumers searched for bargains inside, commuters fumed as Interstate 580 backed up in both directions at the El Charro Road exit for miles into Dublin.
Timothy Stiehr, of Lockeford, arrived at the mall about a half-hour before its 10 a.m. opening and found a traffic "zoo," he said. "By the time we got off the ramp, it took a half-hour to drive a half a mile" and park, said Stiehr.
Despite the hubbub, by 11 a.m., Stiehr was carrying two bags full of purses -- $2,000 worth from the Coach outlet, he said.
A shopper from Modesto, Sharon Van Belle, said she left home at 7:45 a.m. and didn't get off the freeway offramp at El Charro until 9:40 a.m.
"It was just a mess, but it was worth it," she said, clutching her bargains -- including two pairs of Kenneth Cole shoes, regularly $70, that she snapped up for $20 each.
Hundreds of shoppers began arriving before 8 a.m., some lining up outside favorite stores -- including the Nike Factory Outlet, where more than 100 people waited patiently for the doors to swing open.
At 10 a.m., local dignitaries, including Livermore mayor John Marchand and Alameda County supervisor Scott Haggerty, held a ribbon cutting ceremony.
"What an edifice, what a thing of beauty," declared a poetic Marchand.
A thunder of confetti cannons signaled the opening of store doors about 10:15 a.m. Excited shoppers filed in civilly and within minutes were seen hefting bags displaying logos of the mall's 130-plus upscale stores.
Gerald Yano and his wife Christina of Livermore were among the first at the mall Thursday morning.
"We're excited because it's the biggest thing in Livermore," said Gerald Yano.
Paragon Outlets management had no immediate estimate on the crowd size for opening day, but Livermore police said they wouldn't be surprised if the number of shoppers reaches 100,000 over the four-day opening. Anticipating huge crowds, Livermore police and the California Highway Patrol have extra traffic controls planned into Sunday.
The Baltimore-based Paragon Outlets says the outlet center is the first to be built in the Bay Area since 2001. The company broke ground on the project in August 2011 after more than seven years in development. It is expected to create about 2,000 local jobs and generate about $2 million in annual sales tax revenue.