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Despite morning rush, afternoon shoppers had a soothing Black Friday experience

Riitta Naumann of Seabeck and her daughter Sara, 11, browse through books while shopping Friday.
Riitta Naumann of Seabeck and her daughter Sara, 11, browse through books while shopping Friday. 'I'm here mainly because of my daughter,' Naumann said. 'She wanted to go shopping.'
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Julian Peddle of Bremerton stopped by Kitsap Mall Friday afternoon after his shift as a paramedic with Olympic Ambulance ended.

He picked up some gifts for family, plus a CD for himself, but didn't use the credit card.

"I'm not going to go to them," he said.

For other shoppers the day after Thanksgiving, the mood was enjoyable. The hurried, grabby pace that marks one of the busiest shopping days of the year had faded by afternoon. With rain and higher temperatures washing away remnants of Monday's winter storm, some visitors to the mall weren't interested in shopping at all, just getting out of the house.

Peddle planned to spend the rest of the afternoon jamming with his band, Friday Night at the Lake, which plays Christian rock.

Being a Christian, he said he makes the distinction between the religious observance of the day devoted to celebrating Jesus Christ's birth, but he isn't opposed to the secular observance.

The mood at the mall was calm, he said, no signs of the frantic, in-your-face shopping that has colored the day known as Black Friday. Just people looking for deals, getting their shopping out of the way.

But don't read into his presence at the mall the day after Thanksgiving as anything more than running a few errands after work.

"I've never been in to the Black Friday thing," he said.

Neither is Riitta Naumann of Seabeck. But with some convincing from her daughter, this year she braved the crowds at both midnight and in the afternoon Friday.

"I was confused. Everyone was just standing there," Naumann said, describing the situation when she arrived at Wal-Mart. "We had to wait until midnight when the buzzer went off."

Naumann explained that as soon as the clock struck midnight, everyone began jamming the aisles and loading up their carts with merchandise. It put her into a brief state of panic, but she stayed focused on what she was there for, toys, movies and books she plans on giving as gifts. The homemaker said she didn't witness any rude or mean behavior but doesn't know if she will go Black Friday shopping at midnight again.

"It's a very stressful situation," she said.

One person's stress is another's fun. Janet Cameron of Port Angeles woke up at 2 a.m. to start her Black Friday festivities.

Cameron and her friends were forced to make several trips to their car in the Kitsap Mall parking lot to unload.

They found deals at Target, Macy's, Ross, Sears and Best Buy, she said, and the deals are better this year with an increase in competition.

"We've found so many different sales today, it's awesome," she said.

Cameron's friend, Dan Elvrum of Neah Bay, said he's spent "triple the amount" this year, and the bargains mostly involved electronics.

"I went overboard," he said.

Both agreed that the mood was positive and upbeat on Black Friday, and they plan to return for the weekend. The money invested in deals goes a long way, they said, and the overall experience was "pure fun."

Kapua Palama of Port Orchard started her day at 3:30 a.m. to support the little guys — small businesses.

Palama spent most of her Friday morning buying at small, mom-and-pop retailers in Gig Harbor.

"It's more about small businesses that drive our communities," she said. "It's time to give back."

It's up to consumers to buy into small businesses to make sure the stores are able to work for everybody in a trickle-down effect, she said. Palama noticed less customers at Wal-Mart, while smaller stores were showing signs of improvement from last year.

Then she moved on to Cabela's in Lacey before hitting the sales at the Kitsap Mall.

The shopping day is also becoming a family event, she said. Palama attributes the increase in families to window-shopping and getting a better feel for others' holiday needs. Palama said she spent and saved more this year after finding better deals during a time when businesses expand hours for shoppers. Some stores now include Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in their day after Thanksgiving deals.

"I'll continue to shop today, and I'll definitely be back for the weekend," she said.

Tom Gesicki of Tracyton didn't go out of his way. Shopping on Black Friday was convenient because he had the day off. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker said he and his family are spending more money this holiday season than last year.

"It's because of the items we're buying," Gesicki said of the increase in spending, adding that their purchases were mainly electronic items. He paid with cash or debit card, using money they have available.

"We're not racking up any long term debt," his wife Julie Gesicki added. As a first-time Black Friday shopper with no horrible experiences, Tom Gesicki said he he'll go again next year if he has the day off.

Lakesa Williams of Port Orchard didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to find deals on Black Friday, but she still had a good time.

Williams purchased pots and pans at Macy's before searching for deals at Toys R Us and Target, which she described as the most hectic store her family visited. Williams is re-decorating at her home and scored deals on electronics Friday to complement her sons' rooms. She also managed to save $400 at Kohl's while the family purchased flat-screen televisions, she said.

Williams said she enjoyed her first Black Friday experience, but wasn't sure if she would make it after the snow and wind storm that struck Kitsap County this past week.

"The weather got mild just in time of us, and we had lots of fun," she said.

Erin Willis of Silverdale left the mall Friday afternoon with little more than her girls in tow, Madeline, 5, and Rowan, 9.

The point wasn't to score bargains or play tug of war with other shoppers over the latest, greatest present.

"We wanted to get out of the house," Willis said.

After a week spent cooped up inside following Monday's winter blast of snow, ice, high winds and sub-freezing temperatures, the mom and her daughters needed a diversion.

"With kids, there really is no where else to go," Willis said.

For the girls, there were pretzels and the indoor playground.

The crowds were heavy, which gave Rowan pause.

"Every time I turned around somebody was behind me," she said. "Sometimes, I was, 'Where's my mom?'"

Among others who made a day out of going to mall, without any real plans to buy anything, were 30 or so youths from the Peninsula Bible Fellowship youth group.

Bernt Onarheim, 13, and Spencer Claeys, 14, joined more than two dozen others and dressed up as children's book character Waldo, complete with red and white striped shirt, matching sticking cap and black-rimmed eye glasses.

They spent the day searching the mall for one of their fellow church members.

"People just gave us weird looks," said Claeys. "It's a lot of fun."

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