By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The hills were alive with the sounds and sights of shopping late Thursday night and early Friday morning as hundreds of shoppers tolled the bells of cash register tapes region-wide for the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season.
“Black Friday,” as it is called, melted into a gray Thursday, as several national big box retailers as well as other stores opened as early as 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. JCPenney did not follow suit, and instead, opened at 6 a.m. for “its one big sale of the year,” according to a corporate “jcp’ email blast to the media, inviting the press to come into the stores when doors opened on Friday morning.
“Several of our competitors opened on Thursday night, but we decided to give our associates time to spend with their families on Thanksgiving Day,” Steve Warf, manager of the JCPenney store at the Mercer Mall said. “It looks like it worked out. We just opened and the store’s full of people.”
Indeed, the crowd of people waiting outside the main entrance stretched back 100 feet or more before the store’s doors folded open. Shirley Hogan and her daughter, Carla Pochick, arrived at about 4 a.m. and took up seats on comfortable furnishings near the JCPenney inside entrance.
“We were the first people here,” Hogan, a Brushfork resident said. “There was nobody waiting at the door, and none of these people were here,” she said, motioning to the people in line, as well as those who were sitting on the floor.
Pochick said that she was visiting with her mom, while her husband, Tom, was visiting with his parents. “It’s fun to spend time together, and I’m able to pick up some things here for my son.”
Kristin Hedrick of Peterstown, Monroe County, arrived in the parking lot near the JCPenney outdoor entrance at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday night. At some point before the store opened, she moved from her vehicle to the front of the line in the chilly, 25-degree Black Friday morning.
“I was at the Walmart (in Bluefield, Va.) at 6 p.m. (Thursday),” Hedrick said. “People were just grabbing everything. People were fighting over towels and Barbie dolls.”
Hedrick said that she and the other people shopping with her, stayed up all night waiting for the store to open. “No sleep last night,” she said. “Really, no sleep since Wednesday.”
Tonya Hayden of Ashland, Va., and her daughters, Kaylee and Katlyn were among the first group of people who entered JCPenney from the inside entrance. Hayden is originally from Tazewell County, Va., but she said that she prefers shopping in the two Virginias.
“People are much nicer here than they are in the Richmond area,” she said.
The Mercer Mall opened at midnight, and while not all of the stores opened at that hour, several, including Bath & Body Works, did.
“We were extremely busy when we opened at midnight,” Melissa Boling, manager of Bath & Body Works said. “It has stayed pretty busy since then.”
She said that shoppers were taking advantage of some great bargains at the store on body lotions, big candles and VIP bags. “The Black Friday sale is one of the biggest sales we do all year long,” Boling said.
April Puckett, of Rock, and several friends were seated outside the Roger’s & Brooke Jewelers store in the Mercer Mall at about 5:15 a.m. waiting for the store to open at 6 a.m.
“I’m here for the Jelly watches for $8.88 while supplies last,” Puckett said as she held up a copy of the Brooke Jewelers’ newspaper sales circular, advertising the Jelly watches at the “Special Value” price.
“We went to Kmart, Walmart and now we’re here,” Puckett said. “We’re dedicated shoppers and we’re dedicated to these Jelly watches.” Puckett and her friends demonstrated their dedication by sitting outside the store for four hours before it opened. Of course, everyone appeared to be having a great time.
“This gets us in the Christmas spirit,” an unidentified woman near the outside entrance to JCPenney said. “As a whole, I think all of us feel the same way ... Don’t we?” she shouted to the line of shoppers standing in the cold, waiting to enter the store. The shoppers called out in the affirmative and when 6 a.m. arrived, they walked into the store in search of bargains.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com