Downtown businesses get early start

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Friday morning, shopkeepers in Craig crawled out of bed early, despite turkey-eating induced sluggishness, to open their stores at 7 a.m. and kick off the holiday shopping season with some predawn sales.

The sales were organized by the Downtown Business Association, in the hopes of keeping Craig locals in town while they filled their Christmas lists.

Across the country, shoppers traditionally invade stores in search of bargains on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday.

Here, shopkeepers described the customer traffic as "pretty steady" and called the sale "pretty successful."

Many downtown businesses opened as early as 7 a.m., and some opened earlier.

Retailers hoped to entice shoppers to get out of bed early with progressive sales. The largest merchandise discounts, ranging from 30 to 75 percent off, were offered when the stores' doors opened. Then, discounts diminished every consecutive hour, until leveling off around 10 to 20 percent around 10 a.m.

"So many people go to Grand Junction to shop," Jackie Roberts of Timberworks said while half a dozen customers browsed her store. "We wanted to give them a chance to stop in Craig first."

By 11 a.m., Roberts estimated about 40 people had been in her store. She felt satisfied with those results, and plans to open at 7 a.m. again next year.

The Craig Downtown Business Association began discussing holding a day-after-Thanksgiving sale at meetings starting Oct. 1.

Store owners were inspired to try an early morning sale by a similar sale Sheli Steele held at See Shells children's clothing store in June. No one but Steele had held an early morning sale before.

Steele opened her store last April. In June, she needed to make room to start stocking back-to-school clothing, and she held a 7 a.m. sale to free up space. She had pleasing results, and the business association decided to follow suit.

Steele said her store was filled with about 20 people at 7 a.m. She believes that's because she advertised well, mailing postcards out to potential customers.

Other store owners had less stellar results.

Carol Wilson, owner of Neolithics, said she had no customers at 7 a.m., but then she didn't offer a progressive sale.

Sherri Fredrickson, owner of Favorite Things, voiced her disappointment in the holiday sale unabashedly, saying the shopping was slow on Black Friday. Fredrickson opened her furniture and antique store at 7 a.m., and one customer came in at that time and bought a chair. She isn't sure if she'll try opening so early next year.

As Santa and Mrs. Claus roamed the downtown streets at 11 a.m., they found relatively few pedestrians to whom to give candy canes. Around lunchtime more people appeared on the streets, some going into shops, others looking for food.

"I had dinner at my family's yesterday, and they thought there was nothing to buy in Craig," Fredrickson said. "But there's actually a wide variety of shops to choose from."

Indeed, that's why Moffat County resident Catherine Bakos-Snowden likes to shop in Craig.

"I like the small shops with their unique selections," Bakos-Snowden said, as she and her daughter headed to the Kitchen Shop to purchase a self-stirring cow mug for a family Christmas present.

Other locals shopped in Craig not so much because they wanted to, but because getting away was too difficult.

Roger Spears said he likes the variety and friendly people that the downtown shops have to offer, but he usually shops in Grand Junction or Fort Collins, where he has family. Spears stayed in Craig this year because his daughter was ill and he didn't want to travel.

But when Moffat County residents travel to other areas to shop, their money travels with them. And although the people return, the money doesn't.

"Every dollar spent here circulates many times," said Karl Hoffman, jeweler at Skull Creek Trading. "Here, all your tax dollars go to the community. But every dollar spent out of town stays out of town."

Hoffman acknowledged that other cities offer wider selections of goods, but he questioned whether anyone saved money by leaving town, once the cost of gasoline, dining and perhaps even lodging were factored in.

Shopkeepers were divided on the effects of the nice weather on the day's shopping. Wilson thought the decent weather encouraged people to walk around downtown.

"From sitting at my vantage point," Wilson said while looking out her shop's glass façade, "there's a good bit of foot traffic."

But management at Jackson's Office Supplies and Radio Shack felt the clear skies and snow-free highways encouraged people to make the 151-mile drive to Grand Junction.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com

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