By James Niedzinski
---- — GLOUCESTER — The term Black Friday may conjure up horrific images of long lines and pushy shoppers.
But Cape Ann businesses and shoppers alike honored this consumer tradition Friday in a busy but less frenetic style.
On Main Street in Gloucester, 26 shops opened up at 6 a.m., several hours earlier than normal, to encourage shoppers to spend their money in local stores.
Susan Parent, owner of Toodeloos! in Gloucester, helped organize the event’s early openings and they have paid off well.
“We’ve had a fantastic turnout so far,” Parent said Friday morning, serving cake to customers as they browsed the toys and board games.
Toodeloos! customer and Gloucester resident, Anne Lowe, said she usually stays away from the Black Friday masses. Lowe said the crowds are the reason she steers clear of the stores on the traditional first day of the holiday shopping season, but the local promotions this year brought her down to Main Street in Gloucester.
“I really like the shopping local idea,” she said.
Nathan Rowe, an employee of the toy store, said the most popular selling items of the day were Bruder toy trucks and Calico Critters doll houses.
Charlie Piscitello and his son Devin, both of Gloucester, were making stops early Friday morning at the Life is Good Store, the Lone Gull Cafe, and others.
Piscitello, like other shoppers, said his family has gotten over the post-Thanksgiving shopping craze.
“My wife and her sisters used to go to places like Best Buy and Sears around midnight, but not anymore,” he said. “In my opinion, once you’ve done that, you don’t want to do it again.”
Ed Muzio, owner of Sears Hometown store on Gloucester’s Eastern Avenue, opened his store at 12:30 a.m. on Friday morning, and found more than a dozen eager customers were waiting in line, he said.
Although the prices were right, the usual Friday crowd has been dying down, he said.
“Today just didn’t seem to have the impact of the old Black Fridays,” Muzio said Friday morning. “More and more stores keep opening earlier and earlier, having pre-Black Friday sales even before Thanksgiving.”
Muzio added the Massachusetts Blue Laws, which restrict business hours on recognized holidays and holy days, may have made an impact as well, noting that Sears stores in other states opened as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. A number of big-box stores over the state line in New Hampshire also opened at 8 p.m. — to Thanksgiving night buyers.
Lisa White was shopping on Friday morning at The Bookstore in Gloucester, but it was her daughter’s idea to get up early and partake in the shopping tradition.
“I just like shopping,” the 14-year-old Molly White said. “There are a lot of kids in our family, so we have been hitting all the toy stores.”
Lisa White said she has been making her pilgrimage to The Bookstore every Saturday for years, and she’s found that “shopping local” has really paid off.
“They always know what I like and everyone is very personable,” she said.
Main Street in Gloucester was not the only place to find a lot of Black Friday shoppers in Cape Ann.
Larry Williams, who lives in Melrose, traveled to historic Bearskin Neck in Rockport to see the sights.
“I would never go near the big-box stores today,” he said. “My nephew flew in from Switzerland, others drove from Marblehead, and I thought this would just be a nice place to take them.”
Lilia Orozco, who works at Out of the Blue, a jewelry store in Bearskin Neck, said the store did make some minor changes today. The store was open on Friday for a few extra hours, and did have some items on sale.
“We are not really expecting much, but there is a strong local shopping presence here,” she said.
Meanwhile, Chris Coyne was outside his art gallery at Bearskin Neck, trying to sell some artwork as shoppers walked around.
While he said the fall and winter serve as great inspiration to paint landscapes, his sense that many Cape Ann shoppers were not really affected by the Black Friday bug.
”It’s just not the Black Friday crowd,” he said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.