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Shoppers survive Black Friday rush

Shoppers crowd Santa Rosa Plaza on Black Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.

KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.

In cheetah-print footie pajamas, Maddie Kenyon, 13, strolled through the parking at Kmart in Petaluma with her mom, sporting the same outfit she wore to Target's Thanksgiving shopping madness about 18 hours earlier.

“She's my ‘line sitter,' ” said her mother, Christy Kenyon, of Petaluma. “You need to have someone watch your things while you stand in line.”

Patience paid off, and the pair got deals on the gifts they wanted after waiting two hours to check out Thursday night. But they slept in Friday morning, and by the time they got back to the stores for round two, many of the sales had expired.

Around Sonoma County, reactions to Black Friday's creep into Thanksgiving were mixed after Target, Walmart, Kmart, Toys “R” Us and Sears all opened at 8 or 9 p.m. on the holiday.

“It's too bad,” said Teri Clark, a registered nurse from Petaluma who shopped with her husband. “It does take away the whole spirit of what we're doing this for.”

“But as soon as one (store) does it, everyone else has to,” said her husband, Scott. “That's the state of the economy.”

Leilani Seavey, 30, and her husband, Matt, 29, of Petaluma on Friday morning spent about $400 on clothes at Kohl's and received a voucher for $100 to spend Monday.

Leilani Seavey had been out all morning after hitting Target with her friends the night before.

“I wasn't a fan of having the stores open at 9,” Seavey said. “I just felt rushed, getting everything done, between making dinner and cleaning up. But it's a tradition for me and my friends.”

Cassandra Sanchez, 22, a sales worker at Kmart, missed her family's Thanksgiving dinner because she had to be at work at 6 p.m. After working into the wee hours Friday, she caught a few hours of sleep and was back at the store Friday morning.

“That's kind of what you expect when you work in retail,” Sanchez said. “I didn't want to go back to sleep because I knew I wouldn't get back up, so I decided to come in and shop.”

Not everyone was in the mood for shopping.

Outside Wal-Mart in Rohnert Park, Dana Bellwether, 62, a retired teacher, handed out flyers calling for better wages and benefits for workers.

“We're here to support the strike by trying to get Walmart's revenues down today,” Bellwether said.

None of the workers at the store were participating in the protest.

Mhana Mason, 49, an event videographer and graphic designer, held a sign that read “Strike” to encourage union building.

“I was raised very poor, and I understand what being really hungry is,” Mason said. I'm not in danger of being fired, so I'm out here today.”

Despite the protests, Wal-Mart reported its strongest Black Friday ever. From 8 p.m. through midnight, the retail giant reported processing nearly 10 million register transactions nationwide and almost 5,000 items a second. (To read about other Wal-Mart protests across the U.S., please turn to Page C6.)

Most shoppers were undeterred by the protests.

Lillian, 58, of Rohnert Park, who declined to give her last name, picked up canned gravy, air fresheners, underwear and other necessities that were on sale.

“At least they have a job,” Lillian said. “I've been looking for a job since a year ago, and I didn't get anything.”

On Friday afternoon, Santa Rosa Plaza was alive with crowds enjoying their Black Friday deals and the mall's “gates up” free parking program that would last through the weekend.

“It's going really well,” said Kim Hall, area marketing director for Simon Property Group, which owns the mall. “It seemed like the busiest stores were at stores like Macy's and Victoria's Secret.”

The later crowds tend to be larger groups or families with guests in town, Hall said.

“The parking lots are full, there's lines to check out, and there's definitely more people than there normally would be,” said Clarissa Norvell, 54, a nurse practitioner from Petaluma.

Controlled chaos reigned in Macy's shoe department, where families crowded into every last space to try on different sizes of discounted boots and shoes.

Outside the store, Sarge King, 58, a Santa Rosa artist, relaxed wearily on a couch. He had carried a TV, iron and vacuum to the car when his family shopped at Sears just after midnight.

“I'm not shopping, I have too much stuff,” King said. “Save that money for something much better that you want.”

You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or cathy.bussewitz@pressdemocrat.com.

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