It’s nearly time for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and many businesses across Grand Forks are preparing for a larger turnout than in 2020.

Last year, many businesses either had limited sales or did not participate at all due to COVID-19 restrictions. Business owners hope 2021 will be the beginning of a return to normalcy for the holiday season.

Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving – has grown in recent years to nearly become a holiday by itself, especially as stores offer bigger and better deals, sometimes spanning late Thursday evening and throughout the day on Friday.

Small Business Saturday, this year on Nov. 27, hasn't yet reached Black Friday status but it's no less important, according to Alan Haut, North Dakota District director for the U.S. Small Business Administration. In a letter sent to the Herald and other media in the state, Haut said Small Business Saturday is an opportunity "to thank our local small business heroes," many of whom endured a difficult stretch during the pandemic.

"By backing our locally owned small businesses, you support the thousands of jobs they create and the families they sustain," Haut wrote. "Small businesses are the backbone of our democracy, and the solution to our most challenging economic problems."

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At Home of Economy, CEO Wade Pearson said he’s looking forward to Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. He expects it will be a far cry from last year, when the double whammy of the coronavirus and an unseasonably warm November meant some shoppers stayed home, or didn’t need some winter items. Pearson said he believes this year will be more on par with 2019, the last “normal” year that most can remember.

“It’s our biggest day of the year,” Pearson said of Black Friday sales. Sales at Home of Economy will run through the weekend.

Sonia Roberton, owner of Lighting Gallery in Grand Forks, said she believes the weather, which is projected to have a high in the mid-20s, will not play a factor in the turnout.

“People used to stand in line at Best Buy. It could be at 30 below outside, and people would still stand there,” Roberton said. “We’re used to being out in the cold at Christmastime, so that usually hasn’t stopped too many people unless there’s a blizzard or ice storm or something."

This year, Black Friday will be a little bit different at the Sioux Shop at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Jason Carlson, the store’s manager, said ordering merchandise for Black Friday sales takes a year’s worth of planning and there was doubt a year ago due to the pandemic. Carlson is hoping for a normal holiday shopping event in 2022.

It doesn't mean there isn't merchandise available, however, as the store will open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and also will offer deals online.

“I actually ordered my Black Friday stuff for next year about three weeks ago,” Carlson said.

In 2020, Carlson decided to take a conservative approach to ordering merchandise for this year's holiday shopping season. It seemed at the time to be the prudent thing to do, back when the hockey season was in doubt due to COVID.

“Should we order Black Friday stuff for next year when we don't even know if we are having a season this year?” Carlson said about his 2021 merchandise plans.

The Sioux Shop will have some online deals this year, including a decorative steel sign. It’s part of the store’s Dakota Legacy Collection and can only be ordered online. Shoppers can expect a normal Black Friday at the store next year.

The Golf Center’s owner, Brian Leach, is just happy about the prospects of having a decent turnout this year. He wants Black Friday and Small Business Saturday to provide people a chance to reinvigorate interest in locally-owned small businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully loosens its grip on local business.

“'Brick and mortar is not dead’ is kind of our motto,” Leach said. “We really stress customer service in hopes that people will keep returning as customers. Small Business Saturday is always a good time for people to rethink, ‘Should I purchase online, or should I go through my local retailer that may have what I’m looking for?’”

In his letter, Haut urges consumers to make at least one purchase at a locally owned business Saturday.

"These business owners are the true superstars of our community," he wrote, "and they deserve our support, thanks and appreciation."