By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Northeast Georgia sees its share of bargain hunters
The parking lot of North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville is filled early Friday morning as shoppers search for Black Friday deals. - photo by Tom Reed

Editor's note: Brandee Thomas is a reporter for The Times who for many years has been one of the enthusiastic shoppers out early on Black Friday mornings. This year was no different, and here she shares her love for great deals.

While sports fanatics have their Super Bowls or World Series, we shopping enthusiasts also have a special day to look forward to each year - Black Friday.

So while the general public may call us crazy for heading out at 1 a.m. to hit the sales, we know that sometimes you have to forgo a few hours of sleep for the greater good that is bargain hunting.

"I didn't go to bed last night," said Sheila Harper of Gainesville while shopping Friday morning at Lakeshore Mall on Pearl Nix Parkway. "We went to the outlet mall first. I stood in line to get in Coach for 2 1/2 hours, then I had to wait in line for another hour and a half. It was fun though; we got a lot of good deals."

Although yesterday was Harper's first foray into Black Friday shopping, I'm what most people would call a veteran. I've been fighting those crowds since I was 17 years old.

Although I wouldn't recommend it for most novices, my first Black Friday excursion was in Walmart.

It was the year of Harry Potter and my little sister was a major fan, so my mother commissioned me to find every item that I could. During that trip, I made my first mistake - not properly planning.

I arrived at the store at 5 a.m., wide-eyed with wonder.

I was overwhelmed to say the least when I saw row after row of deals. Some were on shelves, but others were on pallets in the middle of aisles.

Arriving at 5 a.m. was another major mistake because although that was the time the sale started, most people had already loaded up their shopping carts with their desired goodies and were just waiting for the registers' clocks to strike 5 so they could check out.

"We opened at 6 a.m., but there was a line all the way back (to Belk)," said Renee Poisson, a sales associate with Bath and Body Works in the Lakeshore Mall. "I thought I was going to have a panic attack because there were so many people, but we have a good team, so we made it."

Another novice mistake I made all those years ago was not perusing the sales papers beforehand and plotting my shopping list.

Ten years later, I've gotten it down to a science. I've learned that electronics and toys are the first things to go, so if they're on your shopping list - that's where you start.

My 8-year-old niece is the only grandchild and pretty much gets her heart's desire for Christmas. My mom promised her a super frilly bicycle and left it up to Auntie Brandee to deliver on the goods. So, at 1 a.m. yesterday, I made my way to Toys R Us.

The parking lot was packed, but I was expecting that.

When I got inside and saw that the check out line was snaking from the front of the store, all the way to the rear, I still wasn't bothered.

I calmly dodged overflowing shopping carts being pushed by bleary-eyed parents - I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because I knew to take a power nap beforehand. I'd done my research online, so I knew exactly what I was looking for - a shiny, purple-framed bike with pink and white hearts and frilly white streamers flowing from the handlebars.

I expected a deal, but I was pleasantly surprised to see my bike of choice was a solid $40 cheaper than it was online - score!

Even when I had to stand in line for nearly three hours to purchase the bike that only took me 15 minutes to find, I just kept smiling to myself. Not only was the bicycle much cheaper than I expected, it was also fully assembled - which isn't always the case with kids' toys.

When my niece was 3, my mother decided she should have one of those kitchen setups - you know, the ones that have play sinks and play stoves that make realistic sounds.

Well, it seemed like a pretty good idea until it took us three hours to assemble it on Christmas Eve. What should've been a "silent night" was punctuated with groans of frustration and a few choice four-letter words.

I could only imagine how long it would take us to put together a bike - something that has to sustain being dropped on the sidewalk and run into curbs.

So although I had to get up before the sun, it was well worth sacrificing a hectic Black Friday, because this year, I'm dreaming of a relaxed Christmas.