For all the backlash against companies opening on Thanksgiving night, one thing became abundantly clear as local businesses prepared to open their doors.
Hours after people give thanks for what they have, they are more than willing to beat the streets in search of great deals.
Walmart's cup was overflowing by 7 p.m. Thursday night as people parked in any space within a ¼-mile radius. And those who wanted to avoid the madness made their way to a number of other sales taking place. Staples and JCPenney opened their doors at 8 p.m., and while JCPenney enjoyed its customary big line, Staples showed a crowd boost from its typical early Friday opening.
"It's a whole lot better than last year," said Justin Tillery, Staples general manager. "We definitely have a better turnout. Honestly, we didn't know what to expect."
Tillery said the evening turned out well although it was not known how much more profitable the store was during this year's premier shopping event. It was also not known whether opening the doors early Friday to Thursday evening would become the standard in the future.
"Every year, it seem like stores are changing something, and Black Fridays are evolving," Tillery said. "We will see what happens."
Moments after Staples opened its doors, JCPenney followed suit. John O'Hanlon, his wife Laura and Ashley Brown were at the front of the line. The women were eager to buy boots, which was where the majority of people quickly headed when the doors were opened. John, on the other hand, had a different agenda.
"I thought I would miss Black Friday, and here I am on Dark Thursday," he said. "I'm just here looking around."
Other men did not have it as lucky, as they were given instructions for shopping by their wives, who went to capture the bargains at other stores. Goody's opened early, and within 30 minutes, there were scattered groups of men around the Mountainview Mall collecting their breaths waiting to see what happened next.
"My wife told me I had to go shopping," Brandon Stewart said. "This is the first time I have been out shopping on Thanksgiving. We were at Walmart once already, and it was crazy, it was a madhouse. We were there looking for a karaoke machine."
Brandon Stewart was teamed up with Robert Oldham, who was also roped into an evening of shopping.
"My wife told me if he came, I had to go," Oldham said. "Otherwise, I would be out in the woods hunting."
Businesses beyond Walmart, the mall and The Commons were also in full-sale mode. Hastings used the occasion to introduce customers to its new look, as well as new merchandise offerings.
"We have seen a big increase in customer traffic," said Lori Beggs, store manager. "People are real eager to see the new product lines and the changes we made, as well as the cool things we have for the holidays."
Beggs said the in-store renovation took three weeks for a crew of 15 working six days a week. The project was completed Nov. 23.
"When people first come in, they see the new kids displays," she said. "Everything has moved around, and the center of the store has grown. We are one of the first stores in this fiscal year (to renovate). We are doing well here, and (corporate) say this will definitely stay around and saw the opportunity to renovate."
For locally owned stores, Friday served as a prelude to bigger and better things with Small Business Saturday lurking around the corner.
"Our first customers today said we want calm and beautiful, not busy and scrunched up," said Maria's Garden owner Maria Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said this year marks 11 years of being a small business within Ardmore, which is a significant milestone for her in terms of when she was born, as well as the hour. And she was eagerly looking forward for the shopping season to slip into high gear as people searched her store and other Main Street businesses looking for the unique, special items that typically highlight the holiday season.
"We have lots of friends and supporters come out and support us on Small Business Saturday," Wilkinson said. "Our focus is to serve the customers."