Shoppers on both sides of the border hit stores for post-Christmas savings

Walking into Salmon Run Mall on Saturday morning, the holiday tunes over the sound system and countless flyers proclaiming “50% off” or “BOGO” may have given the false impression that Christmas was right around the corner.

But some shoppers argue the post-holiday sales were more giving than during the holiday shopping season.

“It’s cheaper,” said Nicole E. Odett, whose first stop for savings was the Christmas Tree Shop. She was pushing a cart of discounted wrapping paper, although she planned to see what the rest of the mall had marked down. “I usually get clothes [after Christmas]. I have five kids.”

In the Bon Ton, Deborah J. Hadfield had come with a friend to return an item, but she stayed to eye some of the discounts.

“Everything’s a lot cheaper, of course. The deals after Christmas are way better than they were before,” she said. “Especially clothing is marked down. Get them while you can.”

A majority of items across the mall — and even at stores across the Arsenal Street strip — were discounted anywhere from 30 percent to 75 percent.

“If you have kids and its Santa Claus, you want to get stuff before Christmas. But if anybody could wait, you should do it after,” advised Ms. Hadfield.

Outside Target on Towne Center Drive, sisters Erin L. Mallory and Lisa M. Mills were just about done with their shopping.

“It was 50 percent off, probably about the same as Black Friday but less crowded,” said Ms. Mallory.

Inside the store, discounts on regular items ranged from just under $1 to over $20. Christmas items, like ornaments and lights, were cheaper than that.

“Target had a better selection than Walmart,” Ms. Mallory added.

“The prices at both stores, Walmart and Target, were the same. But Walmart was very much picked over and Target had a better selection — more things available,” said Ms. Mills.

Angela Bratton decided to take her granddaughter Christmas shopping at Target.

“I was late with her Christmas, so this is it,” she said.

Although she wasn’t looking for deals, Ms. Bratton could not deny the prices were a steal.

“You’re going to save money after Christmas,” she said.

Farther north, Martin Labbee, of Montreal, was enjoying lunch in the food court at St. Lawrence Centre mall in Massena after spending the night before at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.

The day after Christmas, or Boxing Day as it’s known in Canada, has turned into one of the biggest shopping days of the year with retailers north of the border offering Boxing Day sales and specials that often rival Black Friday sales here in the U.S. Not all Canadians, however, spend their money at home.

Mr. Labbee said while he doesn’t make special trips to the U.S. for shopping, he often finds himself shopping when in the country for other reasons.

“Since we were here, we decided to do a little bit of shopping,” he said. “We’re not really looking for the ‘big deal.’ When we’re here, it’s usually looking for stuff we can’t get at home.”

St. Lawrence Centre Marketing Assistant Lindsey S. Breitbeck said the traffic the mall sees on Boxing Day usually rivals that of what they see during the holiday shopping season.

“It’s definitely consistent with the holiday season,” she said. “It doesn’t drop off right away like people might think.”

Speaking early Friday afternoon, Ms. Breitbeck said she had already fielded calls from more than a dozen Canadian shoppers who wanted to make sure the mall was open.

“Since we opened this morning, we’ve received at least 15 calls from people looking to come over,” she said.

While the mall does rely heavily on Canadian traffic, many local shoppers also come out following the holidays to exchange gifts and spend money or gift cards they may have received.

“We get a lot of traffic because things that may be marked up because of the holidays are now marked down,” she said. “If there was something people wanted for Christmas, but they didn’t find it under their tree, today (Friday) is the day they’ll buy it.”

 

 

By Amanda Thomson-Tangalin and Benny Fairchild, Johnson Newspapers

Church & Community Program asks public to vote in holiday makeover drive

 

The Church & Community Program, which operates a food pantry and thrift shop at 7 Main St., is reaching out to the community to support its efforts by taking part in a nationwide food pantry holiday makeover campaign. Program Director Raymond E. Crosby confirmed the pantry has registered itself in a Walmart-sponsored fundraiser that could raise as much as $20,000 in grant funds toward improvements in infrastructure and systems.

“With the exception of the receipts of the thrift shop, all other funds are raised by the churches, business and personal donations and grants,” said Janet A. Stitt, chairwoman of the board. “You have no idea how far this money would go to help our program.”

The 75 food pantries with the most votes from the public will receive a share of $1.5 million in funding. The voting site, www.walmart.com/holidaymakeover, opens at 12:01 a.m. today and runs through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 12, with results to be announced Dec. 15.

Those looking to help the Church & Community Program’s food pantry can vote as often as once a day per social media account for the duration of the drive on any given electronic device. These social media accounts include email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Participants must be 13 or older to take part in the voting.

According to Mrs. Stitt, the mission of the Church & Community Program is to provide food and clothing to those in need, to offer referrals for additional assistance and to do so with respect for those it serves.

The program is a nonprofit organization run by the Churches of Canton Inc. It has only one paid staff member, its director, Mr. Crosby. All other work and tasks are completed by 20 core volunteers running the thrift store and food pantry, and taking care of some administrative duties. The organization has a board composed of two representatives from each of the six member churches: First Presbyterian, Grace Episcopal, St. Mary’s Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist.

“We’re very lean; I cannot stress that enough,” Mr. Crosby said. “We have very few volunteers who are responsible for carrying out a substantial amount of work,” pointing not only to the thrift shop but to the impressive trail of recently emptied food boxes.

These boxes are the remains left from 4,084 pounds of food delivered that day, its biggest shipment yet.

Mr. Crosby said volunteers are responsible not only for the cleanliness and organization of the two venues but for unloading, separating and stocking thousands of pounds of food delivered each week.

In November alone, the Church & Community Program was responsible for serving 12,285 meals to 275 families and 819 individuals. According to the director, projections for December are expected to follow the rising need, with a forecast that nearly doubles the 7,000 meals served in the same month last year. The program expects to far surpass the annual 100,000-meal mark it had anticipated for 2014.

“There’s an obvious need. We’ve been steadily climbing by about 1,500 meals a month since I began in July, and it continues to grow,” he said, plopping a stack of 35 applications for families that came through during the three and a half hours the pantry was open Nov. 24.

The program has seen exponential growth in the past four years. The volume of food it’s received from the Food Bank of Central New York and Walmart donations has grown from 7,419 pounds in 2010 to more than 100,000 pounds by the end of 2014.

“The community has always been there for us, but I believe even more so now that they see how efficient and organized we’ve become,” Mr. Crosby said.

He said the money from the Holiday Makeover Drive would aid greatly in maintaining the integrity of the program. He said that although it has a very efficient and organized system already in place to deal with its growing capacity, the $20,000 could be used to help update old technology and revamp the space.

“For example, it’d be nice to have tile instead of carpet in the pantry; it’s more sanitary, easier to clean, and more efficient overall,” he said.

The volunteers and their director said they are hopeful that the churches, community and surrounding colleges will take part in the vote in the coming two weeks and encourage the public to vote regularly during the duration of the drive.

 

By Alisha Rexford, Johnson Newspapers

Hospitality industry readying to get swamped on Black Friday

Even the most zealous shoppers need a break on Black Friday to refuel with coffee and food, or to get their hair done.

That’s when businesses in the hospitality industry step in, opening their doors to serve customers who take a time out from buying the latest gadgets and trendy apparel on the national shopping day.

In Massena, a hot spot for hungry shoppers is Vino Vidi Vici, an Italian restaurant owned by Tarek and Crista M. Makdouli at the Harte Haven Shopping Plaza.

Mrs. Makdouli said she recommends that customers make reservations for the restaurant, which is flanked by T.J. Maxx, because it otherwise could be a challenge to find a table.

The restaurant is a major draw for Canadians who cross the border to shop in Massena, Mrs. Makdouli said.

“I would say they account for about 40 to 50 percent of our business on Black Friday,” she said. “They’re looking for a meal after they shop. And we always find that we’ll have a bunch of guys come in while their wives are shopping at T.J. Maxx. The husbands are looking for a nice lounge to crash at.”

Mrs. Makdouli estimated that business at the restaurant, open for nearly three years, has climbed by about 15 percent on Black Friday compared with a typical Friday.

And Vino Vidi Vici isn’t alone in the shopping-season buzz.

Dunkin’ Donuts, 1250 Arsenal St., Watertown, will open at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving and stay open until midnight Saturday, keeping the same hours that were established last year to capitalize on the earlier shopping trend, manager Colleen Precourt said. The special hours are available only at the franchise’s Arsenal Street location because it draws the most Black Friday traffic, she said.

“We’ll have nine employees here the whole time,” Ms. Precourt said.

Five people work at the doughnut shop during a typical shift.

“We’re going to be ready,” she said.

Employee Isabella K. Keenan, who worked at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Black Friday last year, said the drive-thru lane that wraps around the store was jammed “all day long.”

To accommodate longer lines, traffic flows into the neighboring parking lot used by Pearle Vision, she said.

“On a normal day you can tell when there are spurts of traffic, but you can’t know that on Black Friday because it never stops,” she said, adding that “copious” amounts of coffee, sandwiches and boxes of doughnuts are sold that day.

Several big-box retailers will kick off the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving night, two or more hours earlier than they did last year.

Some shoppers might even adjust their dinner plans to wait in line at J.C. Penney, Sears, Kohl’s, Target and other stores.

Vina A. Bonner of Watertown said she’ll be hunting for a 70-inch smart television at Best Buy in Salmon Run Mall on Thanksgiving after her 10-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son go to sleep.

“I might buy one of the new curved TVs,” she said. “I think the savings will be great.”

Meanwhile, the Kmart off Arsenal Street will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, which it started doing in 2010. Walmart on Arsenal Street will remain open 24 hours, but its best doorbuster deals will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on the holiday itself. The retailer also has locations in Evans Mills, Lowville, Ogdensburg, Potsdam and Massena.

As a matter of principle, Watertown resident Darlene D. Sheitz said she has never shopped on Thanksgiving to get deals. She said she might this year, though, because a Samsung smart tablet she wants for $50 at Best Buy could be sold out by Friday.

“I don’t want to be in stores on Thanksgiving, but I might have to,” she said. “If stores are going to open on Thursday, why are they still calling it Black Friday?”

The people who shop on Black Friday, waiting in the long lines to pay for their deals, also could have a wait for meals.

The line at Panera Bread on Towne Center Drive, Watertown, usually extends from the counter to the entrance on Black Friday, manager John H. Dillenback said. The fast-casual restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. after opening at 3 a.m. on that day in previous years.

“We didn’t get the sales we expected at 3 a.m. last year, and I think it’s because people are shopping on Thanksgiving and then getting out later on Friday morning,” he said. “About 9 a.m. is when we really start to see the traffic flow.”

From the customers’ perspective, Mr. Dillenback said, the restaurant strikes an appealing balance between fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and sit-down establishments such as TGI Fridays. Customers can order a cup of coffee and quickly fill it themselves using dispensers at the restaurant, which seats about 250 people.

Plus, Panera’s location, next to large retailers, helps make it a quick-hit destination for shoppers, Mr. Dillenback said. The restaurant is flanked by the likes of Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Kohl’s and Target.

“It’s busy here all day long and doesn’t stop, but we keep the line moving,” he said, adding that about 30 employees will work the Black Friday shift.

Shopping breaks don’t just involve food and beverages, though.

Groups of women often get their hair done on Black Friday at Supercuts on Towne Center Drive, manager Elizabeth Shampoe said. She said the business, which opened during the spring of 2013, is expected to lure more shoppers this year because more people know where it is.

Though the store will hold normal hours from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Black Friday, all six of its hairdressers will work the shift — up from two on a regular day.

“Usually at about 11 a.m., it starts to get really busy because people have been shopping all day and want a break to have their hair cut and dry-ironed,” Ms. Shampoe said.

Not all businesses, however, have benefited from the recent trend of retailers opening on Thanksgiving instead of the early morning on Black Friday.

In Lewis County, Lloyd’s of Lowville, a diner on South State Street, used to get barnstormed with shoppers when it opened at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast, manager Melissa A. Zehr said. But she said most shoppers now go home to sleep after doing their shopping earlier on Thanksgiving night.

“People used to run up to Walmart at 3 o’clock in the morning, and as soon as they were done shopping they would come here and eat on their way home before going to bed,” Mrs. Zehr said. “But now they don’t need to wait in line to do that. We’re still busy on Black Friday, but it’s not like it used to be.”

 

By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

Earning their stripes: Parker Line Striping marks 20 years in business this year

Christian R. Parker, owner of Parker Line Striping, Dekalb, and Brian M. Hess, director of national sales, in front of the business. The company is celebrating 20 years in business this year and is well positioned to continue positive national growth in the parking lot maintenance service industry. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago / NNY Business

Christian R. Parker, owner of Parker Line Striping, Dekalb, and Brian M. Hess, director of national sales, in front of the business. The company is celebrating 20 years in business this year and is well positioned to continue positive national growth in the parking lot maintenance service industry. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago / NNY Business

It started out as simply a means to an end. Or so he thought.

Parking lot striping was no more than a way for 18-year-old Christian R. Parker to earn some money in pursuit of his goal to become a professional musician. [Read more…]