EAST NEW YORK - J.C. Penney officially opened its first Brooklyn store at the Gateway shopping center in East New York Friday, just in time for the Labor Day shopping weekend.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the store—some since 4:30 a.m.—hoping to snag some holiday deals and get items checked off their back-to-school lists. The doors opened at 9 a.m. for the grand opening, but the store had been in a soft-opening period in the days leading up to Friday.

"East New York is really blowing up, the way it should have been a long time ago," says local Vinessa Toyer. "But I'm glad that everything is here for us now."

J.C. Penney is the latest business to set up shop in East New York, an area that is often noted for crime rather than shopping options, during the second phase of construction at the Gateway Center. Aldi, Applebee's, Gap, Nordstrom Rack, Pier 1 Imports and Raymour & Flanigan are some of the newest additions. The first phase of construction included retailers such as BJ's Wholesale Club, Home Depot and Target.

Residents say they would have normally had to travel to Manhattan or other parts of the borough to shop at these stores.

J.C. Penney's 124,000-square-foot store includes some Brooklyn-centric touches, such as murals of Brooklyn landmarks, and a Sephora beauty store. The store has hired 350 employees.

The first 100 customers received gift cards and other perks, but managers say the store will offer deals over the weekend.