Michelle Debowes, 5, puts a ribbon on the top of a freshly wrapped gift Friday in front of Wal-Mart. Debowes was helping members of First Christian Church with a fundraiser during Black Friday.

Photo by Jerry Raehal

Michelle Debowes, 5, puts a ribbon on the top of a freshly wrapped gift Friday in front of Wal-Mart. Debowes was helping members of First Christian Church with a fundraiser during Black Friday.

Black Friday, happy smiles

Craig businesses fare well at start of holiday shopping season

What did customers think?

Craig's new Wal-Mart SuperCenter did not lack business yesterday, even from people who live outside of Craig and normally travel to do holiday shopping.

Pastor Linda Taylor and her husband, Orval, of Maybell, came to Wal-Mart in the afternoon without any specific gift in mind.

It was just a place they put on the rounds, they said.

Wal-Mart "definitely" changed the way they shopped, Linda added.

"You betcha it's changed," she said. "I can shop at home now. We used to go to Rifle, Vernal, Steamboat, all kinds of places."

The couple will still visit those areas, but also do more shopping in Craig, they said.

Downtown, Craig resident Shannon Samuelson bought gifts at the Kitchen Shop with her sister-in-law from Boulder.

The owner of Samuelson True Value Hardware & Lumber, she said she prefers to shop at small businesses.

"I just wandered downtown a little bit today," Samuelson said. "I don't think I'll go to Wal-Mart or Kmart. The service isn't as good. That's what you get sometimes with the bigger stores."

— It was the day that all retailers worth their salt should be open, Kitchen Shop owner Nadine Daszkiewicz said.

Black Friday came and went, and by the account of local merchants, customers went home happy and so did they.

Black Friday, the first day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year as consumers go out and look for bargains and hot merchandise that could be hard to come by when Christmas approaches.

"It's been steady all day," Daszkiewicz said. "I expect it to be even better tomorrow."

Her store is at the north end of downtown Yampa Avenue, Craig's most dense retail district. Yesterday's foot traffic up and down the street was good, she said.

Neolithics, a jewelry and gift store just south of the Kitchen Shop, also did pleasantly, said Debbie Hering, who manned the store's counter after 1 p.m.

"We've had quite a few customers," Hering said. "It's been real steady. We've just been trying to get a lot of Christmas stuff out."

On the west side of town, things were a little more hectic.

The parking lot at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter was busy since the store opened an hour earlier than usual, at 5 a.m. Friday morning.

"I got here at 3:30 this morning, and there were people here," Wal-Mart store manager Lou Groff said. "When we opened at 5 a.m., they were all the way down the sidewalk."

When the doors opened, the customers filed in and got to business, she said.

"It was very safe, very calm, but very busy," Groff added. "There was a steady wall of customers coming through the doors for about 15 minutes."

Wal-Mart's business exceeded expectations, she said.

"We knew that we were very welcome at the Grand Opening," Groff said. "We're excited to locally accommodate (the) needs" of shoppers.

Groff credited her staff for the turnout. Their preparation for Friday was outstanding, she said.

A little back east, up Victory Way, Kmart felt the beginning of the shopping season, also.

Kmart opened at 6 a.m., an hour after Wal-Mart, but didn't suffer from the competition, soft lines manager Crystal Gonzales said.

"We've been busy," Gonzales said. "Probably one of busiest times of the year. People went over to Wal-Mart and then came here."

Businesses reached around town all said this year's Black Friday was comparable to last year, without any noticeable differences.

Wal-Mart and Kmart both said electronics were hot items all day long.

Yesterday could be considered the first test of how Wal-Mart's opening in Craig would affect other local retailers.

Across the board, businesses here felt Wal-Mart did not do them any harm. Far from it, Daszkiewicz said.

Wal-Mart's opening "has been bringing lots of out-of-town people," Daszkiewicz said. "All week, we've seen a ton of people from Steamboat. I think they'll be back. They've all been very pleased with Craig."

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