Digestion was the only agenda Jen Leigh and Melanie Adamson had Thanksgiving evening.
Then one of them offered some food for thought.
“We decided to do this after our meal, at about 8 o’clock,” Adamson said. “We hadn’t planned this.”
Their brainstorm was to storm the stores, like millions nationwide, for Black Friday sales, specials, samples and general shopping. They weren’t going to head out immediately, to the ones that opened at 8 or 10 that night, but it wasn’t long afterward that they embarked on their retail romp.
They got to the Strabane Square Kohl’s around midnight, then around 2 a.m. – when it was Black Friday in the truest sense – they arrived at another South Strabane site, Tanger Outlets. They were still shopping there at 8 and intending to do so until, perhaps, Leigh’s hair appointment at noon.
They weren’t the earliest, or among the more frenzied, but they were typical Black Friday shoppers eager to kick off the holiday retail season. An estimated 147 million were expected to participate nationwide, although there were times Friday when Washington County merchants – at big-box stores and small businesses – must have thought that number had descended on their region.
The pace between 8 and 10 a.m. was steady and relaxed, but appeared to be gathering momentum as the minutes passed. That was to be expected for it was Black Friday for everyone, and “In-the-Black Friday” for the stores.
Traffic was moderate but increasing at midmorning, with no indications of a recurrence of last year’s nightmare departing Tanger.
Leigh, of Carmichaels, and Adamson, of Waynesburg, are cousins who hadn’t been together for a while. Thanksgiving was the beginning of a joyous, non-stop, two-day reunion.
“I started preparing the turkey at 6:30 (Thanksgiving morning), so I’ve been up more than 24 hours,” Leigh said Friday morning. “After I get home, I’ll have leftovers and get some sleep.”
They were pleased with their experience as of 8 a.m. Friday, and gratified by what they perceived to be a change in the collective demeanor of other customers. It was in contrast to the stampeding stereotype associated with this event, and a view supported by other shoppers interviewed for this story.
“People used to bump into you and not care,” Leigh said. “It was, ‘I’m going to get the next person who rams into me.’ Now they’re saying, ‘Excuse me.’”
Sandi Benard of Houston was at Walmart in Trinity Pointe on Friday morning, one of her multiple stops. She said the lines she had encountered were orderly and cleared quickly. “Nobody is killing anybody this year,” she said. “At one store last year, people were banging into each other. I was afraid we’d be going to jail.”
She started earlier, at 4 a.m. Friday, with her daughter and granddaughter, Stacie and Savannah Wheeler, 12, of Houston. Benard is a Black Friday aficionado, saying she has been shopping that day “for 10 or 15 years. I work on Thanksgiving and take Black Friday off. But I refuse to come out on Thanksgiving.”
She also refused to go home immediately. “I’m hitting Gabriel’s next,” Benard said. “I’m hitting every store on the way down (Route 19).”
Donna Balis of Canonsburg did shop Thanksgiving night with her daughter, granddaughter and two daughters-in-law, but without her husband, Mark, who wasn’t offended.
“Someone had to stay home and watch the house,” he said.
They went to Walmart together Friday morning and enjoyed the experience.
“Things were very orderly,” Donna Balis said. “We had a nice time. It’s supposed to be a nice time.”
Kim Winters likewise was having a fun, fruitful morning. A Houston resident, Winters said she “learned her lesson” about going out too early and started shopping at Target at 8 a.m. Friday, plotting a Walmart stop after that.
“I’ve been able to find everything I want,” she said. “I got a really nice camera for $100 off.”
Winters is among a growing multitude who are shopping online for holiday items. She said she has done a lot of that this year.
Scott Opsasnick has not done that, but his wife has. The South Fayette Township resident arrived at Tanger at 7 a.m. Friday while his spouse was sleeping at home.
“She did all of her shopping online and is done,” he said. “She started a month ago. Everything she bought is wrapped and under the tree. She’s making me look bad.”
Opsasnick said he has been shopping at Tanger for about a year, and “they have really good deals.”
As busy as the retail scene may have been in Washington County Friday, Ray Quinten was thrilled to be there. The Finleyville resident had just left the Strabane Square Kohl’s with his daughters, Rylee, 12, and Caidence, 6, and fiancee, Joann Badamo. He said the stores were operating efficiently and that the hassles were minimal compared with those at some malls and centers outside the county.
“Things are a little more normal here,” Quinten said. “Traffic is never a horror. This is just a better area to shop.”