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Holiday shopping season off to busy start in Camden

Store owners offer more sales, look forward to Christmas by the Sea's 33rd year
By Susan Mustapich | Dec 02, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Theo B. Camisole and Company and other downtown stores offered Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales this weekend.

CAMDEN — Downtown Camden businesses put on the holiday shopping spirit with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales Nov. 29 and 30.

"We do Black Friday for the local people," said Sue Michaud, owner of Theo B. Camisole and Company. Michaud said she appreciates people shopping locally and wishes all the downtown stores would participate in Black Friday. She offered a storewide discount, ranging from 20 to 50 percent.

"We can't do the deep discounts big stores offer, but we do what we can," she said. Michaud continued discounts on Small Business Saturday.

Retailers offering storewide discounts on Black Friday included Leonard's and Camden Embroidery. Sea Bags offered a discount on almost all of their products, with some exclusions. The store manager said this is their one big sale of the year.

Nancy Leonard, who offered a 30-percent storewide discount Friday and Saturday, said this is the first year she has done this.

Surroundings owners Wesley and Erika Benham ran a Black Friday special, with 10, 15 and 25 percent discounts on items throughout the store.

The sale was "an opportunity to welcome in the community," Wesley Benham said. "It's been a nice, bustling day. We've enjoyed it."

Surroundings will offer special discounts during Christmas By the Sea, promising to "keep a traditional focus on what our local customers expect and add some extras," Benham said.

Planet Toys was bustling with customers Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. The store manager said customers were at the door when the store opened Friday, and it was busy all day on both days.

At Stonewall Kitchen, a special Black Friday gift box was sold out by noon, Troy Hudson, the store manager said. He said the store had "a great couple of days" over the weekend.

At Once a Tree, incoming owner Liz Senders was there, learning from the store's employees. Senders is acquiring the unique and long-time Camden store from owner Bernice Berger, who has been a mainstay of the downtown business community for three decades. Deanne, one of the store employees, said the store was packed with customers since opening on Black Friday.

Christmas by the Sea is a tradition started by Camden's downtown business group, and is in its 33rd year, according to Amy Rollins, of the Penosbscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. Businesses feature big sales, including unique sales events. They also stay open late on Dec. 6, after the parade through town, many to 9 or 10 p.m.

This year, most of Camden's downtown stores will run special sales in celebration of the event. While stores advertise Christmas By the Sea sales in advance, there are also special, surprise discounts, that are part of the fun, often occurring on Friday, which this year is Dec. 6. Many stores continue sales throughout the weekend.

Michaud and Leonard said Christmas by the Sea is always a big event at their stores. Michaud will offer storewide discounts and "huge savings," she said. Leonard celebrates the event, which often turns into a gathering, she said, with sales, cider and her daughter's famous homemade cookies.

Senders and the employees at Once A Tree are looking forward to Christmas By the Sea, which promises deep discounts, and "pick a lucky star," a customer favorite. When customers bring their items to the register, they pick from a bowl of stars. Each star gives a discount, from 10 to 40 percent, and when customers get the 40 percent, they "just love it," said employee Peggy Wadsworth.

Stonewall Kitchen is so busy during Christmas By the Sea, the manager said, that looking back over the days, "it's like a blur." When the store becomes quiet during the parade through downtown, which starts at 6 p.m., employees take that opportunity to rush around restocking the shelves.

Wesley Benham, who with his wife Erika, are the new owners of Surroundings, welcome the community in with Black Friday sales.
Once A Tree incoming owner Liz Senders, left, and employee Peggy Wadsworth, right, are looking forward to Christmas By the Sea, downtown Camden's celebration the first weekend in December, where retailers feature special sales events. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
Leonard's joined many of Camden's downtown retail stores, bedecked with decorations for the holiday season, and Black Friday sales to attract customers into the store. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
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