Black Friday is just another day in Aspen
November 22, 2014
Editor's note: "Bringing It Home" runs weekends in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.
Black Friday may be a growing tradition in America, but it holds little influence in Aspen. Here, you won't find customers camping outside stores or rival parents raining blows on each other over flat-screen TVs, and the reason is simple: The clientele is not interested.
"We don't do that here," Pitkin County Dry Goods owner David Fleisher said Thursday. "It's more buy now, wear now. People come to town and they want things and need things."
His contemporary-clothing retailer, located at 520 E. Cooper Ave., has been in business for 45 years, making it one of Aspen's oldest continuously owned stores. A winter jacket at the shop can run you anywhere from $200 to $2,000, and items don't go on sale until January, after the rush of tourists.
According to Ted Davenport, manager at Miller Sports Aspen on South Hunter Street, putting items on sale before then would be illogical. For the past six weeks, his store has been stocking this season's gear. Prices for a winter jacket run anywhere from $500 to $4,300, with most purchases falling between $700 and $1,500.
"Selling stuff on sale at the very beginning of the season is counterproductive," Davenport said. "We provide good service and atmosphere, and that's what the clientele appreciate."
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Black Friday, he said, is a busy day for the store, but it's not because of the Thanksgiving tradition. It's because families are here enjoying the holiday.
"A quality product in a friendly environment, and they're happy," he said.
Locals are equally disinterested in Black Friday, according to Michelle Weeks, owner of Twinkle, a children's clothing store at 533 E. Hopkins Ave. She said Aspen residents would rather be seen on the mountain than camped out at a store the day after Thanksgiving.
"Thanksgiving's coming, but you have to remind yourself that nothing's going to happen," she said, adding that she spends most her marketing dollars leading up to Christmas.
Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, founder of the once-billion-dollar retail chain Merry-Go-Round and owner of Boogie's Diner on Cooper Avenue, shared a different opinion. He thinks the absence of Black Friday in Aspen has less to do with the clientele than with the merchants.
"They don't know what they're doing in Aspen," Weinglass said Wednesday. "Retailers are very behind the curve."
He remembers Black Friday at his Merry-Go-Round stores as the second busiest day of the year behind Dec. 26. He said Aspen retailers would be better-served if they promoted more Black Friday deals.
A recent New York Times article, "Black Friday Campouts: As Traditional as Turkey," details the story of Florida resident Derek De Armond, who set up camp outside Best Buy more than two weeks before Thanksgiving. According to the story, he's currently living in a three-room tent equipped with air-conditioning, a screened porch, a hammock, a 42-inch flat-screen TV, a tiki bar and a fully decorated Christmas tree. He'll sit down to Thanksgiving dinner inside the tent with his two sons, one a soldier home from Afghanistan and the other a high school student too embarrassed to be seen with his father.
The closest thing to Aspen inspiring anything near that level of enthusiasm is Glenwood Springs, where there is a Wal-Mart and other Black Friday draws. The Aspen Sports-managed North Face on the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall is handing out Black Friday coupons for the Mountain Sports Outlet in Glenwood, but neither Aspen Sports nor The North Face is offering such holiday deals.
Shirin Houchin, tabletop coordinator at Amen Wardy on East Durant Ave., said that in 23 years of business, the store has never offered Black Friday discounts. Nonetheless, her job has been busy as she is caught up in making recommendations to customers preparing their dinner tables for the holiday.
"The type of clientele we have, they're not looking for Black Friday deals," she said. "This is their second or third homes. They come here just for fun, to celebrate and relax and ski and exercise."
As far as price range at Amen Wardy, a single dinner glass imported from France costs around $500.
"They care about good quality, one-of-a-kind and nice service, which we provide for them," Houchin said.