2007-11-29 / Front Page

Christmas shoppers fill Washington, retailers see big Black Friday sales

By KIP BURKE

news editor

Not everybody was at the mall last Friday for the traditional day-after- Thanksgiving shopping - a lot of them were in Washington, retailers say, in numbers they've never seen before, and Candlelight Shopping was packed, too.

"It was the best day of the year, maybe best ever," said Pam Mc- Carty, owner of Bee Southern with Angie Strother. "We had 25 people in here at a time, all the time. Those ads on TV in Augusta and Atlanta are definitely bringing people in here."

"Everybody says they did record business," said Donna Hardy of the Washington-Wilkes Chamber of Commerce. "All the restaurants and food places had their best day ever, and every merchant I talked to said it was the best traffic they'd ever seen."

Shoppers from out of town said that they had wanted to avoid big malls for Black Friday, and decided to go to Washington after seeing the advertisements on Augusta and Atlanta television stations.

Dorie Jones was part of a group who came from North Augusta, S.C., to spend Black Friday shopping in Washington. "We wanted to go Christmas shopping, but we didn't want to go anywhere near a mall the day after Thanksgiving," she said. "And we'd seen those ads on TV about Washington and it seemed like a perfect place to Christmas shop. And we were right."

"Friday was the most people I've seen in town in years," said Kettle Creek Arms owner Boots Gunter.

Tuesday night's Candlelight Shopping event brought in a big crowd of local shoppers, including near neighbors from Thomson, Lincolnton, and Elberton. "Candlelight Shopping this year was great, with big crowds of local folks who were really shopping," McCarty said. "I think next Tuesday's Candlelight Shopping will be good too."

In last Tuesday's Candlelight Shopping, many shoppers visited each store on The Square to qualify to win Downtown Dollars. The winners for this year, Chamber President Blake Thomson said, were Shiloh Nunn of Thomson, who won $100; Washington's Rosemary Hopkins, who won $50 in Downtown Dollars; and Jeannie Bruce of Washington, who won $25.

Carefully produced and aired advertising has made a real difference in just a year, Tourism Director Ashley Barnett said. Barnett put together the advertising packages and had a series of video ads produced by Bradley and Katherine Barber of Old South Marketing and Public Relations.

Barnett said that a merchant had told her that he'd had 25 customers in one day mention seeing the television ads. "People are really discovering Washington is a wonderful place to shop, have dinner, and stay a while, and especially now at Christmas."

But it's also important for local shoppers to shop at home first whenever possible, Barnett said. "I know a lot of folks here are trying to shop at home this Christmas, to keep those jobs here, so y'all come out again next Tuesday night for Candlelight Shopping."

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