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Black Friday shoppers brought a lot of green

Mary Arend applies some finishing touches to one of many Christmas displays at Bonnie's de Kor at 117 E. Third Ave. in Mitchell. Area merchants say holiday shoppers are in a spending mood. (Ross Dolan/Republic Photo)

Weekend retail sales continued on the brisk side after a brief lull early Saturday.

Several Mitchell retailers theorized that shoppers were resting up after Black Friday and gathering strength for the next shopping wave.

"It was fantastic," said Roger DeKok, assistant softlines manager for Cabela's Mitchell store.

The sporting goods giant had settled into the holiday groove on Saturday after a 5 a.m. opening on Black Friday, when around 350 shoppers came through the doors. The annual shopping bonanza is so named because it reportedly pushes the sales year into black ink, or profitability.

Shoppers started lining up at 2:30 a.m. Friday at Cabela's to take advantage of door buster specials on sporting gear and apparel.

DeKok said that Friday was in reality Cabela's second Black Friday. The first was the annual pheasant opener which draws flocks of hunters to the state. The opener has become a rehearsal for the real Black Friday, he said.

"There were waves of traffic that hit us and it just went all day," he said. "We've had great customers all week. People wanted to spend money."

The store opened earlier than Black Friday 2009, and customers responded.

Customer numbers were comparable to last year, DeKok estimated, but declined to disclose those closely held figures.

Asked if shopper numbers reached five figures, he smiled and said cir- cumspectly, "I would have to think so."

For Dave Chmela, store manager at Mitchell's Tractor Supply Co. store, estimated that Black Friday 2010 ratcheted up sales an estimated 30 percent over last year.

"It was phenomenal," he said. "We went through a lot of customers. They were beating down the doors at 6 a.m." The Friday work day ran from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Chmela said that customers were primed and ready for bargains.

Toys, clothing and gun safes were high on many shopping lists, Chmela said. "It was a little bit of everything," he said. "We had carloads of stuff going out the door."

Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce Director Bryan Hisel said there's a feeling of recovery in the air.

"The impressions that I have are that the economy is rebounding and that there is more optimism locally and in the region," Hisel said. "Farm economy has remained strong this year, tourism was stable and major construction projects in the area are helping boost incomes and drive business."

Downtown businesses like Woelfel Jewelry at 218 Main St. are benefiting from that extra cash.

"We haven't been Walmart crazy," owner Brad Jamison said, "but it's been OK."

On Saturday Jamison could be seen shaking hands and congratulating a happy farm couple who purchased an expensive ring.

Jamison said that diamond retailers told him that, after a rough 2009, the demand for precious stones is up this holiday season.

"We've been talking to others in the business, and they've said that sales are up in their areas, too, so I just don't think (the upswing) is just going to be in our area," he said. "I think people are loosening up and feeling better about the economy."

Woelfel's, like many downtown businesses, maintained regular hours on Black Friday, but will be open for extended evening hours to take care of holiday shoppers.

At Geyerman's, a nearby women's apparel store on Main Street, manager Stacey Gorrell said her shop was enjoying a brief lull Saturday afternoon after a solid and busy Friday.

"People were in a shopping mood," she said.

At Bonnie's de Kor, formerly Finishing Touches and Simply Unique, at 117 E. Third Ave., owner Bonnie Kor was up to her knees in Christmas decorations.

The shop is popular with homemakers who are truly into holiday décor.

"We're doing great and having fun with lots and lots of people," Kor said, adding that business has been running "neck and neck" or possibly a little better than last year.

The shop has 33 elaborately decorated Christmas trees on display.

Employee Mary Arend of Alexandria, who's in charge of the trees, joked, "I'm the branch manager. I love Christmas."