Black Friday in midstate doesn’t have usual long lines, headaches

Not everyone is an early bird on Black Friday.

Shortly after noon Friday, shopping seemed to be going strong at the Houston County Galleria in Centerville. Parking spaces were scarce, and surrounding big box stores such as Best Buy, Target and Academy Sports also appeared to be doing well.

Among those looking to take advantage of Black Friday deals without fighting the early morning crowds were Andy and Bonnie Martin of Cumming. Her parents live in Centerville, and the couple have a tradition of driving to Houston County for Thanksgiving, then going out for Black Friday shopping.

The Martins were just getting started with their shopping as they headed into Belk about noon. They weren’t there to buy Christmas gifts or the latest fad items. Instead, they were looking for deals on blankets.

“In Atlanta we pass out blankets in a park with a group of people who give blankets to the homeless people,” Bonnie Martin said.

Earlier in Macon, when stores opened before dawn for Black Friday doorbusters, many shops didn’t have an outrageous line of deal-seekers waiting outside as in years past. But a few places drew a modest crowd.

Sporting goods stores appeared to be popular with customers willing to brave below-freezing temperatures for a good deal. The parking lot of Academy Sports on Eisenhower Parkway was packed less than an hour after it opened at 5 a.m.

In north Macon, customers at Bass Pro Shops parked along the curb of the driveway because there was no room in the parking lots.

In the pre-dawn darkness, Brenda Willingham waited outside Bass Pro Shops for 12 of her kin and their friends. The group drove to Macon from Ashburn for Black Friday deals.

“This is the first stop,” Willingham said. “It’s a family tradition. It’s the girls’ day out.”

Willingham bought some pajama pants and a flannel shirt but said she was there for the $10 blue jeans she buys every year. Her granddaughter said the next stop would be The Shoppes at River Crossing.

GameStop, one of the stores at River Crossing, opened its doors at 6 a.m. to about a dozen deal-seekers who waited outside in the cold. At the time, there were no lines outside surrounding stores.

In west Macon, cars were scarce in most parking lots at Eisenhower Crossing at 5 a.m., but some began trickling in closer to 7 a.m.

A few dozen people waited in line outside of PetSmart for its 7 a.m. opening.

Marie Yawn, Amanda Martin and Sandra Martin were first in line for dog food and dog treats.

The trio drove Thursday evening to Macon from Eastman and shopped all night at other stores.

“It’s been a lot better this year than it has been previously,” said Amanda Martin, who annually shops on Black Friday. “Normally Wal-Mart is completely insane, but everything was organized, and people weren’t shoving and cussing and fighting. ... It’s been good everywhere.”

Chris Crook, a security guard working at Eisenhower Crossing, said the shopping center was expecting a large crowd. He started working at 6 a.m. but said the first line he saw was a couple dozen people outside of Best Buy at 7 a.m., an hour before it opened.

“I was not looking forward to today, but I’m glad to see it’s not as crazy as I anticipated,” Crook said. “I think most people have discovered that the way to do Black Friday is to try to do it the day before.”

Tractor Supply Co. in Warner Robins appeared to be doing good business later in the day. Manager Joe Anderson said there was a big crowd waiting when the store opened at 6 a.m., and it remained busy most of the day.

One of their biggest items was a large gun safe that was regularly priced at $999 but was on sale for $699.

“Our basic clientele does a lot of hunting and collecting,” he said. “And a lot that we’ve had, especially this year, is more for safety purposes for their important papers.”

Rufus and Jannette Gurr of Perry were among the later arriving shopping crowd at the Houston County Galleria.

Married for 58 years, they said they have never been inclined to fight the larger, early crowds. They bought a toaster oven, electric blankets and some other items. They had to wait in line for some of items, they said, but their experience wasn’t too bad. They normally don’t go out on Black Friday at all.

“There were a couple of things we really wanted,” Jannette Gurr said, which is “the reason we came.”

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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