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Sue Bush
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“Black Friday” Hits-And Misses-In Northern Berkshires

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, November 25, 2005

Carolyn Moulton and Amy Moulton display jars of mocha sauce favored by Moulton's General Store "Black Friday" shoppers.
Michele Gietz, owner of the “Where’d You Get That?” shop on Spring Street in Williamstown, is not a fan of the term “Black Friday.”

“I don’t like that name,” she said during a Nov. 25 interview. “It sounds like doom. I like to think of it as ‘Happy Friday.’ We’re just having fun.”

Booming Business on Spring Street

Whatever the term, Friday-after-Thanksgiving holiday shoppers swarmed the shop aisles; the “fun” was punctuated by plenty of “cha-ching” at the store sales register. Four employees worked alongside Gietz during an early afternoon business boom.

“It’s been like this all day,” Gietz said.

The store offers unique items for children and adults as well as holiday ornaments.

A display of holiday ornaments at "Where'd You Get That?" in Williamstown.
“We have a lot of different things,” Gietz said. “A lot of people are into the marble runs and we have a really nice one called ‘Skyrail Suspension.’ We have ‘Wordigo,’ which I think is the best new word game we’ve seen in a while, and in the window we have our lightning alarm clock. And look at this ice cream maker, this is a lot of fun.”

The ice cream maker is a plastic, brightly colored ball that “makes” ice cream when repeatedly shaken. The item would make great family or group gift, Gietz noted.

Another hot item at the store is a holiday tree that can be mailed.

A decorative cardboard cylinder contains a small artificial holiday tree,ornaments, and a mechanism for recording a message. The tree package may be mailed but numerous shoppers have bought the trees with something else in mind, said Gietz.

“People are getting the trees to give to someone in a nursing home,” she said. “They are just right for a bedside stand or table and the recorded message makes it nice. People are mailing them, too, someone recently mailed one out to Hawaii.”

Another popular, albeit political, item is the third edition of “Axis of Evil” finger puppets, which comes as a set of four puppets and includes likenesses of President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Persnickety Doubles 2004 Black Friday Sales

The Persnickety shop on Eagle Street in North Adams enjoyed a busy “Black Friday,” said store owner Monique Suters.

“I’ve already doubled my sales from last year’s ‘Black Friday,’ so I’m happy about that,” she said. “And I am especially happy that when people come in looking for a specific item and it is not in stock, they are taking the time to look around and consider alternatives. People are finding things that they like and want, and I love making people happy.”

Suters has added a new toy line called “Calico Critters;”

Persnickety store owner Monique Suters has added "Calico Critters" to the store inventory.
the “critters” are petite, poseable, and fuzzy animals such as Dalmatian dogs, cats, and mice that are packaged in multi-critter sets. Accessories include “houses” for the “critter families.”

“Hello, Kitty” items, dolls, doll clothing and carriages, magic kits, Smart Lab models, Lego kits, and more fill the shelves and aisles of the store. A pre-teen doll series known as “Groovy Girls” is selling very well and offers an alternative for parents or relatives who are not enamored with the “Bratz” doll series.

“There are a lot of parents who prefer the ‘Groovy Girls,’ and the dolls continue to do very well for me,” Suters said.

The brisk business at Persnickety’s led to a busy day at the adjacent Sugar Llama Café, said café employees Sara Chilson and Amanda Chilson. An interior door links the café and the gift store; numerous shoppers visited the café and sipped hot beverages such as espresso and cappuccino, nibbled sweet confections, or dined on items such as burritos and quesadillas. A breakfast burrito proved quite popular among the shoppers, according to the café staff.

Zannas and Fashion Bug

Zannas clothing store on Williamstown’s Spring Street and the Fashion Bug store at the North Adams-based K-mart Plaza experienced strong sales, according to Zannas employee Claudia Higgston and Fashion Bug sales associate Nicole Young.

“We are doing very well today,” Higgston said.

Fashion Bug opened their doors at 7 a.m., three hours earlier than usual. There was not a line of customers waiting at the downtown store for the early access, said Young, who added that the Black Friday shoppers waited until about 11 a.m. to come into the store.

“And then we got very busy,” Young said. “The past three hours have been pretty hectic. We are selling a lot of sweaters, probably because we have a half off sale going.”

The Fashion Bug chain plans to promote numerous specials and sales between now and the holiday, Young said.

Mocha Big Seller at Moulton's

At Moulton’s General Store on Main Street in North Adams, crowds were steady, said store employees Carolyn Moulton and Amy Moulton. A very popular item was the store’s jars of “original recipe mocha topping” made regionally famous decades ago at the former Apothecary Hall soda fountain.

“We sold out of the smaller jars,” said Carolyn Moulton. “The pottery is going well and the candles and toys are doing well. People are shopping around the store.”

The store hosts several tables and chairs and offers ice cream treats such as sundaes on the premises; shoppers were availing themselves of the opportunity to sit and snack, said Amy Moulton.

There is a sense of neighborliness and community among downtown or “Main Street” shoppers, said Carolyn Moulton.

“There’s a real friendliness, the idea that people can sit and talk, that I think makes downtown shopping nicer than shopping at the big malls or outlet spots,” she said. “A little while ago, three ladies came in, sat down, and had mocha sundaes, and it just brought that whole community feel to the day.”

Slow Start For Some Stores

Things were off to a slow start at McClelland’s on Main Street, and the low volume of shoppers and sales was puzzling and disappointing, said store manager Helga Berger.

The store hosted a traditional and usually popular “Black Friday” storewide 20 percent off sale from 9 a.m. to noon, but few shoppers took advantage of the savings, Berger said.

“I think the malls are doing such huge promotions that people are going right there,” she said, and noted widely-publicized pre-dawn store openings and significant media coverage of people camped out in mall parking lots.

Suters also noted the media attention given to the early store openings involving retail giants such as Wal-mart and Best Buy.

“It would be nice to get some coverage like that in the downtown, instead of all that free publicity for big stores that don’t need it,” she said.

Galadriel's boutique owner Joanne Burdick straightens a clothing display.
McClelland’s offers numerous collectible items, including Snowbabies and Precious Moments figures. Yankee candles, Faerie Glen figures, a large selection of wind chimes and stained glass hangings, and Department 56 brand villages are included in store’s diverse inventory.

“I’m hoping that people remember us here in the downtown,” Berger said.

"People Should Not Miss This Little Shop"

At Galadriel’s women’s clothing boutique on Main Street, “Black Friday” sales were about the same as 2004, said owner Joanne Burdick.

“Most of the shoppers that came today are my regular customers,” she said. “I expect that holiday sales will be about the same as last year; the cost of gas and heating fuel has cut disposable income.”

An unexpected bright spot was the month of October, according to Burdick and Higgston; both reported that sales at Zannas and Galadriels were higher than expected last month.

“But November has been slow,” Burdick said.

Clothing by Global Village, Earth Creations, and Rey Wear share space with velvet scarves, Moa Boa scarves, and scarves, gloves, and mittens made from recycled silk. Beaded jewelry, unique handbags, and a very large selection of sparkly, glitzy hair accessories deliver another dimension of customer choices.

North Adams resident Richard Markham was among the downtown shoppers and said that more people should investigate locally owned and operated shopping venues. Galadriel’s is among his favorite gift sources, he said.

Hair accessories are among the gift items at Galadriel's Main Street, North Adams store.

“There are so many unique things in here,” Markham said. “I think the place should be touted. People should not miss this little shop.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 802-823-9367.
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