Black Friday bargains snatched up by bleary-eyed Berkshire shoppers
PITTSFIELD -- The large cardboard box was almost too big for the shopping cart it had been placed in. It didn't fit into the trunk of its new owner's car.
Yet Jerzy Tarasiuk was still able to smile on Friday morning as he pondered how to bring his newest acquisition home from Walmart on Hubbard Avenue.
"Black Friday," Tarasiuk said. "Electric fireplace. Good price."
Similar scenes were played out across the Berkshires, as shoppers hit the stores on Black Friday, the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving start to the holiday shopping season.
Nationally, several large retail chains opened earlier than ever before, but that wasn't the case in Massachusetts where the so-called blue laws prevented stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.
But shopping did begin at the stroke of midnight locally, at Kmart in Great Barrington, and the Lee Premium Outlets, which held its fifth consecutive Midnight Madness event.
Although one of its major retailers opened at 12:30 a.m., the entire Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough officially opened at 1 a.m. Outside of its four anchor stores, it was the earliest that the majority of the mall's more than 60 shopping venues had ever opened.
One store owner said that management required all of the stores in the mall to open that early this year. But general manager Joe Scelsi said the mall was trying to follow the current shopping trends.
"That's what consumers are asking for," Scelsi said.
The lines of customers waiting for Target and Best Buy to open at 1 a.m. were so long that they nearly touched each other outside the mall, according to Scelsi.
At Best Buy, store manager Dan Salzarulo said some customers began arriving on Wednesday. Around 70 shoppers were in line at Best Buy by 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. The number had increased to 1,100 by 11 p.m.
"The first three hours of business were incredible with the doorbusters and such," Salzarulo said.
He said Best Buy experienced a "lull" between 3 and 6 a.m., but that shopping picked up steadily as the morning went on.
"We're ahead of things compared to last year," he said.
Foot traffic in the mall on Friday morning was steady, but not overwhelming. But Scelsi said if the foot traffic held up throughout the day, the mall would be as busy as it had been on previous Black Fridays.
The Premium Outlets also experienced a trend of shoppers who arrived later in the day.
"The crowd at midnight was a little off compared to last year, but people have been coming later," said Premium Outlets' assistant general manager, Carolyn Edwards. "We're ahead of last year in terms of traffic. It seems that the patterns have shifted a little bit. I think people are taking advantage of the nice weather. Overnight, the weather was a little chilly."
Random acts of violence involving frenzied Black Friday shoppers were reported in some areas of the country, but not in the Berkshires, according to police in Lee, North Adams and Pittsfield.
"Just slammed with traffic," said a police officer in Lee.
One small business, Spartan Fitness in Lenox, decided to hold its grand opening on Black Friday.
"I figured that a lot of people would be out and about and driving back and forth between the Berkshire Mall and the outlets," said owner Chas Gonnello, whose business is located on Route 7.
Everyone had a different way of coping with Black Friday madness.
As shoppers went from store-to-store in the Berkshire Mall looking for bargains, Steven Jackson of Lee sat on a bench trying to keep his eyes open.
"I was working all night," Jackson said. "My daughter and her friend asked me if I could bring them [to go shopping]. We talked about it, and here I am."
They arrived at the mall at 9 a.m.
"Of course, if I hadn't been working, I would have been here at midnight," Jackson said.
Lori Kays and her 16-year-old daughter, Jackie, spent Thanksgiving Night planning their shopping trip.
"We organized everything last night so we knew exactly where to go," said Kays, who lives in Pittsfield.
Others shoppers preferred to freelance.
"Our only strategy this year was to get a shopping cart so we didn't have to carry anything," said Cathryn Barnhill of Pittsfield.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
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