Black Friday: Downtown Laramie businesses react (or don't) to holiday shopping rush

Nov 23, 2012

The Copper Kettle in Laramie opened at 5:30 a.m. on Black Friday and enticed customers with steep discounts.
The Copper Kettle in Laramie opened at 5:30 a.m. on Black Friday and enticed customers with steep discounts.
Credit Rebecca Martinez / Wyoming Public Radio

Americans have mixed feelings about Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when many big box stores open early and offer steep discounts to kick off the holiday shopping rush. Small businesses in Downtown Laramie had mixed reactions to the occasion.

Some have been working hard not to be forgotten at the official start of the holiday shopping season.

Cyndi Martin opened the Copper Kettle kitchen supply and coffee shop at 5:30 a.m. and offered some major discounts before normal opening hours. She says popular items included Wyoming-made cutting boards and Christmas dishes. Martin says since the recession hit, she’s been working hard to thank loyal customers for supporting her business.

“It’s been a ton of fun. We have our regulars that now know to be here and we fill ‘em up with coffee. And they hit us first and they go all over Laramie, and then a lot of them run over to Cheyenne and down to Fort Collins, but it’s nice that they come in here first.”

Christmas songs blare out over Second Street from Alexander’s Fine Jewelry. Owner Jim Rasmussen says his shop lost a lot of early-season business when big retail chains moved to town. But when Alexander’s began advertising Black Friday discounts last year, it was the shot-in-the-arm the store needed.

Rasmussen says he refuses to play the “buy local” guilt trip to deter people from big box stores. He focuses on offering good deals to potential customers.

“We can’t compete with their sales and their advertising, but we can compete with their price.”

Other business owners say they benefitted from foot traffic by Black Friday bargain hunters as well as by people visiting Laramie during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Donna Hodder owns Earth Wind and Fire Gallery, where she sells upscale American-made crafts. She says holiday the season makes up about 33-percent of her annual business, but she finds that people are drawn to her business without having to play with prices.

“I had a woman today say that she had shopped in Santa Fe and that our prices were about half what they are in Santa Fe for what they are for jewelry and pottery. So we, you know, don’t mark things up and mark them back down like a lot of big department stores do.”

It was just another Friday at Cross Country Connection outdoor store few doors down. Owner Ken Cramer says Black Friday is popular among stores that want to sell toys and electronics, but he’s not trying to unload his winter gear selection too early in the season.

“Right now, what we’re trying to do is have a good selection, so that … we’re not out of sizes that people need, and skis, boots, the other products that we have, so there’s a good variety.”

Cramer says the amount of snowfall will determine his financial success this winter… and he doesn’t plan to discount his merchandise until the end of the season.