November 24, 2012

Black Friday hassles not for everyone

Pockets of peace

Rachel Brown

— There were the usual nightmare stories of shoppers pushed and shoved by fellow bargain hunters overly anxious to get their paws on a hot commodity, of big box stores luring the purchase-savvy into their dens of deals, of long lines to enter the land of promise for affordable boots, baby clothes and bins of electronics.

Elsewhere on Black Friday, however, there were pockets of peace.

In downtown Dalton, business was slow to usual for many owners. Tish Shirley and her sister-in-law, Chrissie Shirley, browsed sidewalk sales near the Paper Princess and Fast Foto on Hamilton Street around noon with only a couple of other shoppers nearby. The two were visiting family for the holidays and opted to stay away from the whole Black Friday thing. Why?

“Just mental health,” Tish Shirley said. “I can’t get into that. Makes my blood pressure rise.”

The promise of long lines and crowded conditions was for some enough to keep themselves and their spending money at home or at least away from known hot spots.

At Toys in the Attic on Hamilton Street, owner Kathy Jenkins said the threat of Black Friday madness turns some people off to any kind of shopping even though small businesses like hers were calm and there was little traffic in the area.

“Typically, Small Business Saturday is a much busier day for us,” she said. “I think more people are aware of it this year.”

For example, American Express card holders can get $25 back on their statements if they register their card and spend at a qualifying small business today.

Sherry Carpenter, owner of Bling Things by Sherry, next to The Sweet Spot at the corner of Morris and Hamilton streets, said business was slow all morning Friday.

“I wish it was busier,” she said while taking a coffee break for one near the front of her store. “I’m hoping for a big turnout tomorrow.”

She’s been open for three years and was in the Peacock Alley building across the street before it burned.

“Awesome prices,” she said when asked what stands out about her clothing and accessories store compared to larger retailers. “I try to keep everything in here under $30.”

While people camped out Thanksgiving night at the new Academy Sports and Outdoors on Shugart Road to be first in line for a 5 a.m. opening, and while cars crowded Walmart parking lots, others were happily at home and ready to wait for their retail therapy until later in the day — and at a less hectic location.

At Sweet Cheeks denim boutique, owner Sandy Putnam said her 3-months-old shop carries a range of designer denim, boots, jewelry and other items from both upscale and more affordable brands.

“We are assuming that most of the shoppers would be at Walmart or the mall,” she said, taking a break to greet a lone customer who entered.

Then there’s a personal touch that several business owners said they try to offer.

“We want to give personal attention,” Putnam said. “We enjoy helping people find what they need, and not just laying it out there.”