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November 24, 2012

Area shops see brisk Black Friday

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — Many Oneonta shoppers interviewed on Black Friday were cautiously optimistic about what the start of the holiday shopping season could mean for the economy. The day that follows Thanksgiving is traditionally the time of the year when retailers move into the black — signifying profitability.

Several store managers and shoppers on Main Street said the season was off to a good start.

Debra North, owner of Razzle Dazzle gift shop, said she did not know what the season would bring, but sales seem on a pace with last year. It’s not that there are crowds but “the people coming in are buying” jewelry, toys, and housewares that are among the items the store sells. This is her 38th year in business.

“People want what you have,” she said. “I feel really good.”

SUNY Oneonta dance instructor Michelle Gardner was shopping in the store around 3 p.m. She started the day downtown about noon with her family.

“It is important to patronize these stores” if the city is going to maintain a vibrant downtown, she said.

She said she will be coming back without her family to actually make most of her purchases downtown and at the Southside Mall this season. She was pleased to find “there are a lot of nice things” on sale. She also said she likes running into people she knows when she shops locally. 

At the Green Toad Bookstore, owner Michele Pondolfino said the day had lots of “spurts of business” and then quieted down to give employees a chance to catch their breath. The store has not felt an effect from the increasing popularity of ebooks, she said.

“We have really strong support” from the store’s customer base, she said. Like other store owners who were asked about sales so far, she didn’t have any numbers but said she expects this year to be better than last year.

“It seems like people are spending and not counting their pennies too carefully,” she said. 

Former Oneonta resident, Mark Gallucci, who was in town visiting his parents, was in the store Friday. He was buying a few CDs as gifts. He works at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany and while his holiday spending will be about the same as last year, the economy appears to be improving, he said. 

The shoppers had thinned out at McLauglin’s Department Store in Oneonta by about 3:30 p.m., but acting manager Sue Place, said “we have been pretty steady,” throughout much of the day. The store opened an hour early Friday and had sales for selected hours Wednesday and Friday.

“It brought people in looking for special items,” she said. 

The day started at 6 a.m. at JCPenney in the Southside Mall, where store manager Jim Bardsley said at about 2 p.m., that the day had been going well. People were lined up more than 100 feet outside the door when the store opened, he said.

“It’s such an important event” in the store calendar, he said — the only day when Penney has a sale after the chain changed its policy in February. He has been at the store since April, but said he was told that traffic was about the same as last year. With people out, in some cases much of the night, “we plan on a majority of our business being done by noon.” 

This did not include Kayla Mahoney of Cobleskill, who was shopping with her daughter, Hannah, who will be 2 next month, and her husband Zach. Kayla started shopping Thursday at 11 p.m. in Albany with other family members, went home at 3:30 a.m. to rest and came to Oneonta with her husband and daughter at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

“I think I am finding more deals in Oneonta,” she said.

She works full time at an area Early Head Start program and is attending school to get a master’s in school counseling, so she will probably not be spending as much this year on presents, she said. But, she is making sure to get people what they like. 

Elsewhere in the mall was Christina Gregory of Walton, a database manager at Acco Brands in Sidney. She started shopping in Binghamton at 3 a.m. and found stores “really crowded.” She came to Oneonta at 11 a.m., and said the situation was more manageable. She wasn’t looking for anything special, mostly clothes and portable DVD players, but said the “thrill” was worth experiencing for the second year. 

Salina Veach of Stamford, is a registered nurse at A.O. Fox Hospital and was shopping at the mall with a sister and friend. They got a late start, arriving about 8:30 a.m., she said. Last year was the first time the group shopped on Black Friday, and “we had a really great time,” she said. “We decided to try it again.”

She was not sorry they “missed a little of the madness by coming later.” The economy appeared to be getting better, she said, and she will spend a little more on presents. However, with a family tradition of not going overboard for Christmas, she will also be shopping at bazaars and thrift shops.