Black Friday shopping remains family tradition in Tri-Cities

Tri-City HeraldNovember 24, 2012 

— Black Friday is about Christmas shoppers going from store to store searching -- sometimes battling -- for money-saving deals.

Yet for many Mid-Columbia families, the retail industry's most controversial day is a cherished holiday tradition.

The Celestinos have made the trip from their home in Mattawa to Columbia Center mall in Kennewick for years on Black Friday.

"Our mom's been bringing us here to shop ever since we can remember," said Cesy Celestino.

This year, their trip began on Thanksgiving night. Cesy and siblings Alex, Brandon, Jessica, Sandra and Saul were among the first to enter the mall at midnight Thursday when almost 100 stores and kiosks opened for business.

"We don't have lists," Cesy said. "We're not looking for anything in particular, just bargains."

At 6:50 a.m. Friday, they stopped for a break and to check in with their mom. Marcela Celestino was sound asleep in one of the overstuffed chairs set up throughout the mall.

"She's our driver. She needs her rest," joked her kids.

Despite opening at midnight, it only took minutes for Columbia Center mall to fill with shoppers, said mall operations director Jeff Sivonen.

"Looking down the mall, all you could see were lines of people waiting to get into the stores," Sivonen said. "If you took our busiest Saturday and doubled or tripled it, that's what the crowd looked like.

"At Old Navy, where they were letting shoppers in just a few at a time. It took until 3 a.m. before the line in front of the store was gone," he said.

Sisters Char Baker of Pasco and Bev Jones of Richland said they have shopped on Black Friday for at least a decade.

"We plan on it all year. We wouldn't miss it for anything," Baker said.

Jones said, "We had our Thanksgiving with our families then went through all the ads in the paper and made our game plan according to the time the stores we wanted to shop opened."

Their trek began at 8 p.m. Thursday with stops at Walmart and Target.

Then, they migrated to the mall. There was a short side trip to Fred Meyer around 5 a.m., before they returned to Columbia Center for more bargains when JC Penney opened at 6 a.m.

They were mainly shopping for their children, they said, although Baker grabbed a slow cooker for herself.

"We've been up almost 24 hours and I'm tired, but it's been worth it," Jones said.

Jen Ackerman, owner of Apricot Lane, a clothing and accessory store that's been in the mall for four years, said she expects this will be one of their best years.

"We didn't open at midnight last year," Ackerman said. "This year, we did and added an extra six hours to our day.

"The number of people in here shopping for gloves, leggings, jewelry has been unreal all night long. Our customers are having a great time. They're very gracious, patient and understanding, even though it's been so hectic. It's a lot of fun, but I'm ready to go home and sleep now," she said.

Lines at Best Buy in Kennewick were "many hundreds" long, said store manager Trent Griffiths.

"It stretched from the front door, around the building and across the back when the doors opened at midnight," he said.

Michelle Searls and Casi Marshall, both of Kennewick, and Carrie Meyer of Richland, who were in that line, said it reached the roundabout by Bella Italia restaurant. The trio praised the Best Buy sales staff.

"We waited over 30 minutes in line to pay, but it was very organized," Searls said.

Griffiths, who worked his eighth Black Friday at Best Buy, said, "Our customers have been great -- very patient."

Most of the Best Buy shoppers, the manager said, sought computers and TVs.

"The really cool item this year was our 40-inch Toshiba LED TV for $180. They were gone right away," he said.

"Some people skip the lines and crowds by ordering online at bestbuy.com, and then come in to the store later to pick it up when we're not so busy," Griffiths added. "But there's a lot of people who like that excitement of waiting in line."

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