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In a Main Street mood: Shoppers trade Black Friday chaos for downtown charm

fr shopmainstreetShe is every Main Street merchants’ dream.

With a penchant for the eclectic and a passion for supporting independent businesses, Carolyn Phinizy worked downtown Waynesville’s shopping district during the post-Thanksgiving spending days like it was her civic duty, not calling it quits until the trunk of her SUV wouldn’t fit another parcel.


“I think we’re full,” said Phinizy, ladling the final bags of her afternoon shopping session from the crook of her elbows and into the car.

Visiting from Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, Phinizy opted out of the Black Friday madness propagated by the nation’s giant retailers and instead spent a leisurely two days prowling the downtown shops.

“We like for the small businesses to stay in business,” Phinizy said.

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Her own family once ran a mom-and-pop hardware store and mercantile in Florida, and every purchase she makes from a small business today is a noble gesture toward keeping the backbone of America’s economy alive.

“They need more support,” Phinizy said. “I know what the big stores have done to them.”

Besides, her version of holiday consumerism is a lot more fun. Fighting through the malls or big box stores for heavy-duty Christmas shopping “makes me crazy,” Phinizy said.

Not to be outdone, small businesses have officially claimed their own date on the Thanksgiving shopping calendar — “Small Business Saturday” now joins the ranks of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” in the nation’s lexicon of holiday commerce terms.

For Jill and Jerry VanWeelden, the culinary pull of downtown Waynesville rivals the shopping.

“We are foodaholics,” Jill admitted.

However, it wasn’t yet dinnertime, so the Florida couple had holed up at Home Tech (a.k.a. the kitchen shop), where they diligently tested tong sets off the wall of gadgets, no doubt looking to outfit the kitchen drawers of their newly purchased mountain home in Balsam.

“This is the William Sonoma of Waynesville,” said Jerry, examining the spring action of one particular pair.

Aside from its impressive suite of restaurants, the absence of mega-chain retailers is the chief draw that brings the VanWeeldens downtown.

“It’s quaint, and there are no big box stores,” said Jill. “We find things you won’t find in any other store, or any other town for that matter.”

That sentiment is echoed by many Main Street strollers when asked why they prefer doing their holiday shopping downtown.

“The shops are different and unique. It’s not the big box store products you find everywhere,” said Gary Tollefson, a local man who lives not far from downtown.

Tollefson and his wife had moseyed down to Main Street to check out the Christmas decorations. The downtown trees are prettied up with nests of white lights, the lampposts wrapped in evergreen boughs and red bows and window displays sporting each businesses’ twist on the holiday spirit.

Jack Gibson, a retiree from Atlanta, took a day trip to Waynesville just so his wife could partake in America’s favorite pastime — which, by the way, isn’t really baseball.

“Shop — what she does best,” Gibson said.

Gibson’s role for the day was clear: holding bags and holding down benches.

“And pay for what she buys,” Gibson added.

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