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Holiday shopping shifts into high gear in Auburn

Big crowds for Black Friday; special events in Old Town, Downtown
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Black Friday deals or unique gift finds — both were in demand this weekend as the traditional holiday shopping season began. Many shoppers braved hours in near-freezing temperatures to be ahead of the line for Black Friday deals. Target in North Auburn, one of the post-Thanksgiving hot spots, “definitely had more people this year than last,” store team leader Sarah Wolfgang said Monday. “We’re estimating 1,000 shoppers were waiting in line when we opened at 4 a.m.” she said. “Our earliest person in line arrived at 6 the night before. So that was pretty impressive.” Wolfgang attributed the increase to several factors “I think it is combination of the economy improving, we had some fabulous deals and we opened an hour earlier than last year,” she said. “We opened an hour earlier than Kmart and Best Buy so we got that hour advantage.” While crowds scrambled for bargains at Target, Best Buy and Kmart, that was not the case for all the chain stores. In fact, Friday was a quiet day at Petco. “We opened normal hours,” said Megan McRoy, inventory and pricing manager. “People don’t usually shop for pets on Black Friday. It’s one of our slower days. The busier days for us are the couple of day before Thanksgiving when people are stocking up for when they go away.” While the Black Friday focus is on electronics and big-box sales, locally shoppers also made their way to Old Town and Downtown stores. “We had a lot of people here and I think they had a completely different experience,” said Linda Robinson, owner of Old Town’s Sun River Clothing Company. “I think most merchants here had a good weekend. We’re certainly grateful for folks who shop local.” At Wildflower in Downtown Auburn, owners Dick and Adele Wise said volume was down from five years ago, but better than last year. “Quite a few people said they weren’t doing any big-box shopping because they wanted to buy local to make sure smaller merchants are around in the future,” Adele Wise said. Wildflower’s busiest time is the last two weeks before Christmas. “People tend to procrastinate a little more, hoping not to part with their money too soon,” Dick Wise said. For Downtown merchants, Saturday’s Festival of Lights Parade brings in thousands of potential shoppers, as does Old Town’s Country Christmas, which will be held the following two Saturdays — Dec. 11 and Dec. 18. “Those two (Country Christmas nights) are important for our historic district because they bring commerce to Old Town,” Robinson said. “When the weather is good, even though it is cold, it brings in 4,000 or 5,000. “It’s a rain or shine event. This is our 24th year. When the weather is good, (crowds are good).” Country Christmas features holiday crafters, a bonfire and hayrides drawn by two black Percheron draft horses. “Merchants will be having open houses, offering cookies, cider and treats,” Robinson said. “Of course everyone is decorating the stores now inside and out. In the evening it is beautiful with Old Town lit up for the holidays. Holiday events wouldn’t be complete without Santa.” In Downtown, Saturday’s parade jumpstarts the holiday season, according to Jim Bril, president of the Downtown Business Association. “Festival of Lights will be the big thing,” Bril said. “Hopefully Downtown stores will be open late. Each store is handling it individually. There will be food vendors on the parade route. (Attendees) should check with local shops for promotions, special or late-night shopping, and possibly open house with snacks and goodies.” The Chocolate Shoppe and Gift Emporium on Lincoln Way will have expanded hours on parade day. “We’re always open for the parade,” owner Lois Granstrom said. “We’re here until there aren’t any people anymore. It’s great. Lots of people see the store that might not have otherwise. It’s great exposure and the kids are fun.“ Granstrom didn’t see an uptick in customers out for Black Friday shopping. For her, business increases steadily from now until Christmas. She also sees a lot of out-of-towners. “There are so many people visiting they come to look at Auburn,” she said. “We get that kind of business.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.