On Black Friday, SLO County shoppers support stores large and little

Nainoa Lloyd, 4, beams with the toy his grandparents, John and Nympha Grubbs, bought for him at Tom’s Toys.
Nainoa Lloyd, 4, beams with the toy his grandparents, John and Nympha Grubbs, bought for him at Tom’s Toys. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

While shoppers swarmed big-box stores on Black Friday, many others opted for the less frenzied pace of shopping in downtown San Luis Obispo and the Arroyo Grande Village.

“We saw some people at Target lining up as we drove in, but that’s not us,” said Nympha Grubbs of Los Osos, who had just left Tom’s Toys in San Luis Obispo with her grandson. “This is less stressful.”

“It’s nice to support the local stores,” added her husband, John Grubbs.

Though shoppers in downtown San Luis Obispo might not have been tackled en route to a low-priced television, there were still crowds. Shoppers jockeyed for room on the sidewalk, passing storefronts taped with fliers announcing 10- and 20-percent-off sales. Larger chains offered deep discount specials for early shoppers. 

“It was claustrophobic in there — busier than ever,” said Diann Boyle of Pleasanton of the 50-percent-off-before-noon sale at Express. Boyle and four family members had just walked a few blocks from her sister’s home, where they shared Thanksgiving the evening before. For her family and several others The Tribune interviewed, shopping in downtown San Luis Obispo on Black Friday is an annual tradition.

Business owners and managers said the foot traffic through late morning was up slightly from the year before. Carlos Macias, manager of Tom’s Toys, said the arrival of larger stores in San Luis Obispo is not hurting the store’s business.

“Some live right by Target, but they say they would rather come here,” he said.

Beau Barclay, who owns The Sock Drawer with his wife, Brooke English, said Black Friday is an important shopping day, but nothing holds a candle to Dec. 23. “It blows all other days away,” in terms of sales volume, he said.

In Arroyo Grande, the pace was much slower, but shoppers were still out and buying. Ashley Cansler of Arroyo Grande, whose parents own the small business Hearing Solutions in San Luis Obispo, made a choice to shop in the Village on Friday to support local businesses.

But the discounts found everywhere in downtown San Luis Obispo were scarce in Arroyo Grande.

“We don’t have as much competition here,” said owner Sharla Cannon of Le Papillon, which features women’s apparel. Cannon described the Village as a unique tourist destination. “I don’t think our average client expects that sale.”

Marelene Daoust, owner of Lightning Joe’s Guitar Heaven, decided to open this Black Friday for the first time in “a long time,” and was offering discounts.

Ginger Taylor, co-owner of Village Antique Mart, said while traffic was slightly up so far on Black Friday, holiday sales overall this year were slightly down.

“Antiques are luxury items,” and people are not spending on luxuries, she said.

Debra Jackson, owner of Village Papery and Gifts, is expecting traffic to spike today — Small Business Saturday — which has been held since 2010 and promoted by American Express. “Typically for small business, (Saturday’s) our day,” she said.