There were no snaking lines for Thanksgiving-night doorbusters at small businesses in Forest Acres, no crack-of-dawn chaos on Black Friday.
But there were crowds of loyal locals who spent at least a part of the traditional post-Thanksgiving shopping holiday away from the big-box stores supporting their small neighborhood retailers.
Sisters Maria Anderson, of Columbia, and Lucinda Austin, of Asheville, along with Anderson’s daughter, Emily Catoe, of Camden, waited outside the Southern Proper store at Trenholm Plaza just before it opened at 10 a.m. Friday.
“We tend to do a lot of the smaller stores, and we’ll probably make a pop-in to Belk,” Austin said. “It’s just fun. It’s a good time to be together.”
The ladies, all Columbia natives, left their men at home and had already made the rounds to some of their favorite local stores, including Be Beep toy shop on Forest Drive and Miss Cocky in downtown Columbia, where they started at 7 a.m. for its special of 50 percent off one item.
Anderson and Austin always like to buy some “twinsies” gift for themselves. This year, it was a pair of fringe boots for themselves from Miss Cocky. But they won’t be waiting til Christmas morning to wear them, they said.
Particularly in Forest Acres, where many homes and businesses were hit hard by the October floods, shopping local this season is a matter of supporting friends in the community.
Coplon’s, whose Forest Drive store was destroyed by flooding, has temporarily reopened in Trenholm Plaza while rebuilding its permanent location. A pop-up sales shop on Main Street in Columbia, which will stay open through the end of the year, has been drawing good traffic since the flood, said Judy Mester, a Coplon’s stylist who’s worked at the store for more than 20 years.
“Under the circumstances, I think (we’re doing) very well,” Mester said. “People are very kind and coming in even just to say ‘Hi’ and thinking of us. I think it’s been quite good, and hopefully we’ll keep getting better.”
Paintings from the old store make the temporary spot feel “a little bit homey,” Mester said. This time of year, Coplon’s expects to see loyal customers and people, even from out of town, who might not normally shop there. Mester said Coplon’s hopes to continue to rebound and return to a sense of normalcy over the holidays.
The recent flooding has put the holidays in a new perspective for many, even for those who weren’t directly affected by flood damage.
“It doesn’t seem like the ‘stuff’ is as important,” said Kristen Griffin, shopping at Be Beep toy store Friday. Her family, which lives in Forest Acres, avoided harm from the flood, but she knows of friends who lost a great deal.
Griffin and her friends Marci Goodwyn and Jennifer Seigler are regulars at Be Beep, where they said they enjoy the personal customer service, unique selection of toys and – as numerous people raved about Friday – the signature gift-wrapping.
Shoppers were packed into the tight spaces at Be Beep early in the morning, taking advantage of the store’s annual 20 percent discount before noon.
Rachel Rogers shopped there with a clan of gals from her family, continuing a post-Thanksgiving tradition. Now living in Milledgeville, Ga., Rogers grew up in Forest Acres and has been shopping at Be Beep with her family for years and years.
“It’s just really personal here, and this is sort of a traditional store. They have a lot of vintage toys and modern toys,” Rogers said. “Everything is nice. They don’t have anything that’s not made well.”
Her four children, ranging in age from 5 to 12, know a Be Beep gift by sight thanks to the signature wrapping paper.
Her 12-year-old daughter, Maggie, shopped with Rogers Friday, helping pick out some gifts for her younger siblings.
There’s a definite stir of excitement when they recognize a present from Be-Beep, Maggie said – “You know it’s going to be a nice gift.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Small Business Saturday
The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become an official day to rally behind local businesses at the start of the holiday shopping season.
Numerous small businesses in the Columbia area are offering special sales and shopping incentives.