TRAVERSE CITY — The smile on Melinda Gall’s face said it all.
Gall, of Midland, was in Best Buy shortly after midnight Friday with her four children, Alex and Chloe Gall, and Greg and Nick Long. The kids convinced Gall to try out the latest high-tech headphones, and, when Gall did so, she broke out with a huge smile, making it clear this Black Friday adventure wasn’t about commercialism.
It was about family time.
“Basically, I’m looking for sales for the kids,” Gall said, circled by her children. “Let them do some shopping. They are old enough now so if they want something, we’ll normally buy it. It’s still Christmas rules, though. They have to wait until Christmas Day to (open presents) It makes it hard on them, easy on me.”
Thousands flocked to Traverse City retail outlets as the clock struck midnight on Black Friday. They navigated from store-to-store on slippery, snowy roadways and bundled up in chilly temperatures that dropped to 13 degrees by 5 a.m.
Some shoppers looked as if they were stalking prey. Others just enjoyed time with their loved ones, all under the guise of finding the next big bargain.
“Sleepwalking,” said Jenny Sedlacek as she sluggishly browsed sale items at Kohl’s. “Not too bad, though. Just tired. We’ve been shopping since 6:30 p.m. and we have to keep shopping til 5 a.m.”
Sedlacek and McKenna Musser managed smiles as Sedlacek rattled off the stores visited prior to Kohl’s: Toys R Us, Alta, Target, the Grand Traverse Mall, Michael’s, Gander Mountain and Macy’s. Surviving such a grueling session is simple, said Sedlacek.
“Coffee, pop and chocolate,” she said.
At Macy’s, an expert was at work just shy of 2 a.m. Jessy Reyes, his arms filled with clothes, flipped through the discount displays for Christmas presents for family and friends.
“I’ve got it down,” Reyes said. “In the newspaper there’s all these ads, spend $25 and get $10 off, so I hit the clearance (racks.) I get all these shirts and right now they are going to be about $16 dollars; I got another 10 percent ... so it will be like $14. Originally, this one was $24 just for the shirt. I’m getting five of them for $16. I’ve learned the system.”
Brooke DeFrance headed out to the stores at about 11:30 p.m., and eventually made her way to JCPenney. She said she shunned earlier store openings on Thanksgiving Day.
“I don’t believe in it,” DeFrance said. “I think everybody deserves to be with their family on Thanksgiving.”
Chad Liebler, who works in the appliance section at Best Buy, said the Thanksgiving Day opening changed Black Friday slightly. In 2012 nearly 8,000 people lined up for the traditional opening. This year’s Thanksgiving Day shopping reduced lines and spread out shoppers over a longer period.
“We didn’t have quite the line we did the year before when we opened at midnight, but we have just as much in sales,” Liebler said. “When we opened at 6 p.m. there was a line of about 300 people. Since then we’ve had about 7,500 into the store. The line last year was about 8,000 and it went around the building.”
Erich and Theresa Wangeman were on the hunt for a small flat-screen television. They said they shop every year on Black Friday. The key to their success is not planning it out ahead of time.
“No agenda -- seriously,” Erich Wangeman said. “When you have an agenda to beat the lines and beat the people it’s no fun. It sucks all the joy out of it. If you come see what you can find and enjoy and relax and walk around, find a deal here or there, then you have a good time.”
Neil Ferguson used a Black Friday shopping trip to spend quality time with his son, Nathan Underwood.
“This is our family time, out shopping together,” Ferguson said. “We were looking through the sales for tomorrow and we saw they had midnight doorbuster sales, so we are staying up all night and are going to hit the 4 a.m. openings to get some great deals.”