BY SCOTT AUST
Ellie Damm of Great Bend ran circles around her family Friday in downtown Garden City, excited about the next place to shop on Black Friday.
"Now we're going to the fabric store! Now we're going to the fabric store," the little girl said as the rest of her family loaded up their SUV.
Carla Damm, Ellie's mom, along with Kathy Huston of Great Bend and Jeanne Howard of Scott City, came to Garden City to shop on Friday after spending Thanksgiving in Scott City.
"We have family in Scott City, so we came down to shop a little bit," Carla Damm said. "We don't do the morning thing, though. They're crazy, and sometimes they're not very nice. The shops are much nicer down here and not as packed. We're not going to the big stores."
Members of the group said they much preferred downtown's more friendly atmosphere than the crowded, sometimes rude attitude encountered at big box stores the day after Thanksgiving. Damm said the family's shopping trip included visits to an antique store on Laurel Street, the Stage Department Store and Porter's Flowers and Gifts, which she called, "the best shop in town."
Cool, crisp temperatures, sunny skies and little wind made Friday enjoyable for most downtown shoppers.
Sisters Rhonda Jury, Sublette, and Sandy Boyette, Lake Providence, La., spent the day shopping with their three teenage girls.
"We're just shopping on Friday, for fun. We're having a girl's day out," Jury said.
The group went to the larger stores like Target, JC Penney and Sears early Friday, but got tired of the hectic pace and the crowds, so they came downtown for a more enjoyable experience. Jury said they went to Porter's first and spent a lot of time there before heading to Davis Designs and other stores along Main Street.
"It's more relaxing," Jury said. "We're just shopping for gifts. We don't have a checklist."
Boyette said the group was heading to Brown's shoe store next.
"We're just shopping, laughing, eating — and spending some money," she said.
Mary Lou Irsik and Eva Springer, both of Garden City, said they prefer to shop downtown, though Irsik started her day at 5 a.m. at Home Depot.
"I knew what I wanted, and I got in and out. While we was waiting outside in the cold, they brought us donuts and coffee," she said.
Irsik said she tries to avoid the big box stores around this time when she can because, in her experience, the crowds seem to get a little pushy and somewhat rude.
"When I lived in Enid, I went once (to an early bird special on Black Friday). I had my stuff, and people just took it out of my hand," she said. "They might not be that way now, but I'd still rather come here to buy my stuff."
Irsik said her husband used to work downtown, and she's always enjoyed it.
"It was nice. I loved it. This used to be the main thing until Walmart and all the big shops," she said.
Springer said she wasn't shopping for anything in particular, she was just looking.
"I think it's a nice downtown. I like the decorations. It's all beautiful, but Stevens Park down this way is decorated all nice," Springer said.
Business owners reported a steady stream of customers throughout the day on Friday.
"We've been crazy busy," Heather Davis, owner of Davis Designs, said. "We have kind of a slow point right now, thank goodness. We can breathe."
The store had normal hours Friday of 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and offered 20 percent off storewide. Last year on Black Friday, which was the store's first, 95 people came through the door. This year, Davis had 25 customers go through in the first two hours, and 54 by mid-afternoon.
"We had a couple points where you could not breathe in here because there were so many," she said. "Some of our customers bring their families down when they're here for vacation. Maybe part of it's the sale, or maybe it's just people shopping local stores. We're just selling a little bit of everything. Nothing big."
Thao Fenster was home helping her parents, Than and Lorie Nguyen, with their business, Lorie's Alterations and Boutique. She said a steady stream of customers had been coming to the shop since 9 a.m.
"A lot of people have today off," she said. "It's been a great day."
This is only the second Black Friday the store has experienced since it opened in October 2011.
"It's hard to compare, but this morning it was pretty steady. It's definitely been a lot busier than a normal Friday," she said.
Bob Finley, owner of Finley's Mens Wear, said Friday's sales really won't make or break him.
"For us small independents, it's another day," he said. "Everyday's a good day, but we don't do the big glitz and party and everything that the big guys do."
Generally, Finley said, the biggest sales day for many downtown businesses is usually the Saturday before Christmas.
"It's been that way for 50 years that I've been on Main Street," he said. "Business is good, overall. I'm not going to say it's been fantastic, but it's been real good."