Madison's malls and big-box stores are mobbed on "Black Friday," the post-Thanksgiving D-Day of sales. But what about downtown? Do the locally owned stores around State Street and the Capitol Square get a Black Friday boost?
In a word, no.
"Black Friday has been quieter downtown because lining up at 6 a.m. for the super discount on branded electronics isn't really what downtown is about," says Mary Carbine, executive director of Madison's Central Business Improvement District. "Our 85 or so local and independent stores tend to have more specialty products."
Downtown's answer to Black Friday is the Downtown Madison Holiday Open House on Saturday, Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rather than competing with the malls' shopping frenzy, the downtown businesses keep things on a human scale. The event features walking tours, gift bags for kids, free trolley rides, carolers, and family activities at the Overture Center. Most of the stores offer something special, whether it's refreshments, hands-on events or charitable opportunities.
"We want to welcome everyone into 'the living room of the city' and offer a fun holiday experience," Carbine says.
A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore, 307 W. Johnson St., is one of the downtown businesses that do well during the Holiday Open House.
"Because we are unique, a lot of ex-Madisonians visiting their families over the holiday come downtown to shop with us," says Room's Sandi Torkildson. "They're not into going to Target."
The rare downtown business that sees Black Friday-style action is Fontana Sports Specialties, 251 State St. Starting two years ago, Fontana began opening at 8 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving and running specials on ski goggles, ski helmets, hats, gloves, socks and outerwear.
"When the weather is nice, we have 40 or 50 people lined up outside before we open," says Fontana president John Hutchinson.
Compared to the crush of shoppers at West Towne and East Towne, 40 or 50 people is a relatively modest number. In downtown Madison, even our mobs are human-scaled.