Stores open on holiday for Lycoming County’s early birds

As families gathered around the dinner table with a variety of delectable dishes, some braved the cold to wait in shorter-than-normal lines as Black Friday sales moved into Thanksgiving.

For seven or eight years, Ken Dady, of Jersey Shore, has bundled up and camped out in front of Best Buy, Pennsdale. For the past three years, his son, Gavin, has joined him after he started requesting to come along.

This year, they arrived at 2 p.m. Wednesday to get this year’s doorbusters: laptops and televisions.

“People look at you like you’re crazy,” Ken said. “(Yet) our friends text us orders.”

Since they already are in line, he said he will get the items, “As long as it doesn’t slow us down.”

Although this year was a little different than Ken remembered from previous holiday seasons. This year the next person in line came at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, more than 24 hours later than he arrived.

“Two hours before the store opened, the line used to go all the way down,” he said. “There’s not that many people. I think the cold has a lot to do with it.”

With temperatures in the low 30s for a high, Ken said it was the coldest wait he could remember, but not the worst. A few years ago, he waited in the rain in 40-degree weather. That, he said, was the worst weather he experienced. They stayed in the tent he brought that year.

Ken and Gavin used the time almost as a camping trip, using a camping stove to make their meals. Since Ken forgot his lighter this year, his wife saved the day by bringing pizza.

Yet despite the bad weather, the father-son duo continue to wait in line every year,

“My dad and I did it for years,” Ken said.

Nine-year-old Gavin did not seem to mind the cold much either.

“It’s kind of fun,” he said.

Sarah Smith, who sat next to the Dadys, was just as surprised when she showed up Thanksgiving afternoon and only was third in line.

“I expected to be at the end of the line,” Smith, of Jersey Shore, said. “I left and got a coffee.”

Normally a Wal-Mart Black Friday shopper, Smith decided to go to Best Buy instead for the first time because of their deals. It was quite the change. At Wal-Mart, people can wait inside the store until the deals start.

Despite the chill, Smith kept warm by wearing several layers.

Unlike the Dadys and Smith, Ray McCarroll, of Quakertown, drove to Best Buy on a whim after the people he was visiting decided to go shopping. Some of his family waited at Toys R Us.

“Divide and conquer,” he said.

With no plan in mind, other than to use the cellphone to find out what items needed to be bought, he waited in line.

As he waited, the Best Buy employees let themselves into the store.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” both the employees and customers said to each other.

Earlier on Thursday, he stopped by a Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee as he traveled to Williamsport.

“I feel like we should tip them,” he said, speaking of both the Dunkin Donuts employees and the Best Buy employees.

While he said it was great for the shoppers, he would not have minded getting the items on Fridays if stores waited to put the sales out then. Yet he understood that retail stores had less time to entice shoppers because of a late Thanksgiving this year.

A short shopping season also makes it harder for customers to get the items they want because there is less time to shop, he said.

Not too far away at Toys R Us, another short line waited just a few hours before the store opened.

Amie Brown, of Hughesville, arrived around 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and found herself starting the line.

“The deals are worth it,” she said about coming out on Thanksgiving to shop. Some of the major toys her children want this year were up to 50-percent off.

She had an early Thanksgiving lunch with her family, then went out “visiting” as she told her children so that on Christmas day, they can have the gifts they want, even if it is not exactly where she wants to be on Thanksgiving.

“I enjoy Black Friday (shopping) at 1 a.m., midnight,” Brown said. “I don’t get to spend family time at Thanksgiving. I come out here. I do it for my kids. I get less time with my kids.”

Yet it is the “store pressure” that brings her out when she rather would be with her family.

“They only offer special deals for four hours (on Thanksgiving),” Brown said. “I kind of feel pressured into coming early.”

For longer than she can remember, Brown has been a Black Friday shopper, going out with her mother and aunts.

Another long-time shopper, Chelsea Goss, of Muncy, arrived about 20 minutes after Brown did.

Black Friday is “how we do Christmas,” Goss said. “Otherwise we never would be able to pull it off.”

For the first time, she brought her husband, Kirk, along to sit with her as the family she usually went with shopped elsewhere.

“I’m cold,” Kirk said.

Chelsea agreed it was a cold day to wait outside, especially with the snowflakes that kept falling, “This is one of the worst. Last year wasn’t bad.”

Like Ken Dady, she did not fondly remember when it rained hard on the Black Friday shoppers.

“I always start here (at Toys R Us),” she said. Then after getting the toys, she visits Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, which meant, at the end of her shopping day in past years, that she already finished most of her shopping list, except for some of the little things.

Going online, while it would be warm, would not be as rewarding, she said.

“(The deals) are not as good online,” Chelsea said. “There’s no doorbusters.”

The toys her children really wanted would only have the best deals in the store, so waiting in the cold was the only option.

“I try to stay at home,” Kirk said, as to why this was his first year experiencing the phenomenon of Black Friday shopping. “It didn’t work this year.”

Yet he knew it would be worth it because they stopped by the store earlier to see the price of toys compared to the Black Friday ad.

Even still, he said he did not ever plan on waiting in the cold again.

“Till next year,” Chelsea told him.

“No, not happening,” he said.

Chelsea pointed out that it often is the women who are out in the cold buying the season’s gifts.

“We love our kids,” she said. “We want to get every penny saved.”

Getting that perfect gift for a child also was the reason Anita Baird, of South Williamsport, stood in the cold. She arrived at Kohl’s around 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

When she arrived, an hour and a half before the store opened, only two cars were in the parking lot. Around 7 p.m., the line started growing as more people arrived.

Yet the later opening allowed her to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family before she set out on a quest for a LeapPad 2 for her daughter that she saw advertised in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

For her, having Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving is easier.

“We don’t have to stay up so late to get what we want,” she said.