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Christmas shopping rebound in Auburn? Black Friday points the way

Black Friday doorbuster lines long, shoppers keep on arriving throughout day
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Black Friday turned into a red-letter day for Auburn businesses. Stores like Target in North Auburn were humming with activity and brimming with shoppers looking to scoop up early-day door-busters. The break-of-dawn activity extended into the rest of the day, a portend of what retailers are hoping will be a rebound in Christmas spending this season. Nathan Gravatti, Big 5 store manager, said Friday’s turnout was up from last year’s Black Friday. Like other retailers offering early-bird specials, Big 5 had a line waiting when it opened. “We had at least 50 people,” Gravatti said. “And when I arrived at 4:30 p.m., there was one person even waiting in a sleeping bag.” Gravatti said he thinks the local stores are being helped by the presence of newer, larger stores like Best Buy and Home Depot. They attract and then hold shoppers in the area, he said. Weimar’s Amber Jantz said that she bypassed Auburn last year and drove down to South Placer County for Black Friday shopping. This time around, though, the opportunity for a double mocha from the new Dutch Bros. coffee outlet at Dry Creek Road and Highway 49 drew her to North Auburn. Unloading plants from Target as well as other Christmas-related purchases into her SUV, Jantz said she was heading out for more shopping at the High Hand Nursery in Loomis and Roseville with her mother. Formerly of Southern California, Jantz said she would spend even more time in Auburn if more stores such as discounter TJ Maxx or restaurant Chick Fil A opened in the community. “I don’t want to spend money down the hill – I want to support local business,” Jantz said. “But if they don’t have it, I have to drive farther to save money and get name brands.” Auburn’s Cynthia Scarborough said she made a conscious choice to shop locally and had already spent $1,500 before noon. With five children, Scarborough said she’s content to find what she needs for Christmas at Auburn shops. Scarborough said her plan was to buy the bigger items early and then pick up the smaller items later on. “We went in for the kill today,” she said, with a laugh. The store with the biggest line in Auburn, Best Buy was buoyed Friday by a quirky national ad campaign and plenty of doorbuster specials, including a $197 notebook PC. The line before the doors opened at 5 a.m. ran about 100 yards, with some 400 to 500 people waiting in the darkness for bargains. Joana Brush, Best Buy store manager, said the Black Friday early-morning opening went well – considering up to 500 people were inside the building at 5 a.m. “Our customers are the best customers,” Brush said. “They have so much respect for each other and everyone was gracious.” By noon, Best Buy continued to be a Black Friday hub, with more than 200 people shopping inside the store. Not everyone out in the crush of Friday shoppers was looking for Christmas presents – or even voluntarily in the Yuletide spending melee. Judy Barth of Auburn said she had braved the crowds to see if she could find a shower gift. She did find one and also emerged with a couple of Christmas items as well. Other than momentarily losing her car in the sea of vehicles parked at Target, Barth said the experience was non-stressful – with stores close to where she lives and traffic not hard to navigate through. For Auburn’s Charlene Hanson and her mother, Gloria Hartman, who was visiting from Southern California, the trip to Target was an unexpected one. A Pomona resident, Hartman had brought her air bed with her and it popped when Hanson and her 4-month-old boy were jumping on it. “I worked in retail for the last six years and am not working now,” Hanson said. “I tried to avoid Black Friday this year but, in the end, it wasn’t that bad.” They left with not only a new air bed but also a bouncer for the baby.