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November 24, 2012

Downtown Meadville Black Friday shopping remarkably stress-free

MEADVILLE — In Massachusetts, they’re telling the story of the guy who left his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in a car while he went shopping for Black Friday bargains, then went home with his new 51-inch flat screen television and left the toddler behind. (Charges pending — toddler fine.)

In New York City’s Herald Square, 11,000 individuals — the equivalent of 82 percent of the entire population of the City of Meadville  — were standing in endless lines encircling Macy’s flagship store when its doors were thrown open at midnight.

In downtown Meadville, however, shopping on Black Friday was remarkably stress-free.

While several people were on hand when Meadville Market House opened at its customary 10 a.m., Market Master Alice Sjolander was pleased to report that uniformed assistance with crowd control was not required.

“We’ve been busy ever since we opened,” Sjolander gleefully reported as mid-afternoon approached. “It’s probably going to be a record for sales on Black Friday.”

Seeing who could fill the most bags with the most stuff, however, wasn’t the only thing on the minds of Market House shoppers. “We’re getting a lot of people who are going to Trees of Christmas (the biennial extravaganza at Meadville’s Baldwin Reynolds House Museum that extends through Sunday), Sjolander said. “They’re coming here, having lunch at the Market Grille and shopping.”

Maple syrup and alpaca socks were the runaway best-sellers of the day. “This time of year, we sell thousands of dollars of maple syrup at the Market House,” Sjolander explained. “People want to buy locally.” Of the 40 different vendors currently offering their wares in the Market House, with the exception of two fairtrade groups, everyone is local, she added, noting that the popular alpaca socks (knitted from alpaca fleece, not designed to keep alpaca tootsies warm) are among the fairtrade offerings created under agreements attempting to establish a more equitable playing field for producers in developing countries.

For shoppers Carol More and her husband, Michael, buying local was exactly what they had in mind. “We would never be caught dead shopping in a big-box store,” Carol explained. “We only trade locally.”

Having traveled from their home in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to spend the holiday with relatives in the Centerville area, “we always come down to the Market House before we head out to our family’s home,” she said. “Our gifts are always from here.”

As for the selection, “It’s fabulous,” she said, looking around the historic structure. “We can always look at what we’re getting — and we’re getting things that we really can’t get back home.”

Down the street at @thebank, near the corner of Park Avenue and Chestnut Street, Gay Taylor was also checking out purchase possibilities with her family.

Her son, Kenji, a 2003 MASH graduate who is now a third-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, was visiting.

“It’s good to get back and see how Meadville’s growing,” Kenji said.

“It’s changing — it’s good,” he continued. “I remember when I was in high school, the downtown area wasn’t quite so populated. There weren’t as many stores. It’s nice. It’s good to see that there’s  development — there are things happening around town.”

His sister, Yumi, a physician already practicing in Meadville who’s trying to talk her brother into returning to practice when his studies are complete, agreed.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at mspicer@meadvilletribune.com.

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