Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



The early birds . . .

Zach Blilie stayed up all night and missed having Thanksgiving dinner with his family so he could be first in line outside the Best Buy store in Grand Forks.

Zach Blilie stayed up all night and missed having Thanksgiving dinner with his family so he could be first in line outside the Best Buy store in Grand Forks.

Blilie started waiting in line outside Best Buy just before 11 a.m. Thursday a full 18 hours before the store opened at 5 a.m. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

But he said camping out overnight was worth being first in line and saving about $400 on a desktop computer that was in limited supply at that price as part of a door buster deal.

"I was worried if I didn't get in line, I wouldn't get one," said Blilie of Grand Forks, whose family brought Thanksgiving dinner to him.

He said several passing motorists told him he was crazy after stopping to find out how long he had been waiting in line.


Chris Belcourt of Grand Forks, who was second in line at Best Buy, started waiting in line about 11:30 a.m. Thursday after receiving a call from his girlfriend telling him that someone was already waiting outside the store.

Belcourt, who purchased three laptops at door buster prices, couldn't sleep Thursday night.

"It was too cold," he said. "You needed to keep moving to stay warm."

Long lines

Shoppers waited in long lines both inside and outside local stores Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year and the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season.

As many as 133 million Americans are expected to shop during the three-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to a National Retail Federation study conducted by BIGresearch.

"It's like a sport," said Kaydi Strickler as she rocked back and forth trying to stay warm sitting in a portable lawn chair outside Kohl's in the early-morning hours before it opened Friday. "It's the thrill of the hunt."

Strickler, of Grand Forks, was first in line at Kohl's when it opened at 4 a.m. After first sitting in her car, she started waiting outside the store at 2:30 a.m.


"We kind of just huddled in our cars for as long as we could, then just made a run for it," she said.

By the time the doors swung open at 5 a.m., a crowd of about 300 shoppers swarmed through, descended on store aisles and began quickly filling their arms and shopping carts. Before the initial crowd had finished entering the store, customers were already leaving, purchases in hand, in search of the next store, the next deal, the next door buster.

Those who weren't at the front of the line weren't as lucky. About 20 minutes after Kohl's opened, the line for the check-out lanes extended all the way to the back of the store, across part of the back of the store and all the way back up to the front counter.

More than two hours later, SuperTarget was just as busy as shoppers rushed this way and that, excitedly pushing shopping carts full of merchandise.

"It's really crazy," said Tara Balstad of Mayville, N.D., as she waded through traffic inside SuperTarget just before 7 a.m.

Outside, a group of customers crammed boxes containing giant TV screens and air hockey tables into the back of an SUV.

But most appeared to take the congested store aisles and parking lots in stride.

"Everyone is happy and patiently waiting in long lines," said Cindy Hughes as she shopped at JCPenney at about 6 a.m. Friday.


Hughes, of Medina, Minn., was visiting relatives in Grand Forks, but still managed to get up at 4 a.m. to go shopping. Her first stop Friday, not surprisingly, was Starbucks for some coffee to get herself going.

"It's tradition," said Hughes, who usually shops with her sisters on the day after Thanksgiving. "It just kicks off the holiday season."

Taking a break

With all the commotion going on around him, Dan Reed took a break from shopping and lounged in a massage chair at Macy's just after 6 a.m. on Friday.

Reed joked that he planned to sit in the chair until his wife and sister found him.

Reed, of Effie, Minn., said he left his relatives' house about 4:30 a.m. Friday and expected to shop until 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. He estimated the three people in his shopping party would each spend about $300, mostly on Christmas presents.

Canadian shoppers

Plenty of Manitoba license plates were spotted in store parking lots Friday as Canadian shoppers continued to stream across the border, taking advantage of a favorable exchange rate, low prices and taking care of holiday shopping.


Bryon and Gail Hutlet of Winnipeg and their two children were part of a six-car entourage of Canadian shoppers who met up in Grand Forks this week.

Bryon Hutlet estimated the family of four, which crossed the border Thursday and expects to return home today or Sunday, will spend about $2,000 during their trip to Grand Forks.

"Too much," Gail Hutlet said, while the family waited in line to check out at Sears just before 6 a.m. Friday. The family's full shopping cart included clothes, a vacuum cleaner and the Guitar Hero II video game.

Tamara Carlson of the Winnipeg area said she didn't plan to spend more than the duty-free limit of $400 during her two-day trip to Grand Forks.

"There are good sales," Carlson said of the motivation for her visit as she waited with her mother and 2- and 5-year-old daughters outside Kohl's just before it opened Friday.

Busy stores

JCPenney opened at 4 a.m., its earliest opening the day after Thanksgiving since coming to Columbia Mall in 1978.

"It was just packed," said store manager Ron Mayer, adding that sales numbers Friday morning were up significantly from last year. "It was probably the best day after Thanksgiving that we have ever had."


Best Buy general manager Torrie Enget estimated about 500 customers were in line when the store opened Friday, streaming through the door to the sound of Christmas songs.

He said the store was busy, but added that traffic was a little lighter than the day after Thanksgiving a year ago.

"It's pretty hectic. It's busy," Enget said. "But it's a day that those of us in retail really look forward to. We spend so much time planning for it and we truly enjoy it."

But day-after Thanksgiving crowds tend to thin out later in the day as blurry-eyed early-morning shoppers run out of gas.

When asked before 4 a.m. if she planned to spend all day shopping, Strickler laughed.

"I don't know," she said while waiting for Kohl's to open. "I gotta sleep."

Schuster reports on business. Reach him by phone at (701) 780-1107 or (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; by e-mail at rschuster@gfherald.com or view his business blog at www.areavoices.com/bizbuzz .

What To Read Next
Get Local