On Black Friday, news stories around the country circulated with reports of a stabbing, gunshots in a mall and a woman who used pepper spray to keep rival shoppers away from merchandise she wanted at a Walmart.
On San Juan, there was a far different scene: islanders lifting fragrant, handmade soaps to their noses, carefully fingering jewelry and glass blown art, and perusing many other local wares at the annual Artisans Holiday Market at Friday Harbor Elementary School.
“This is totally the opposite,” said Darleen Nixon of Darleen’s Designs, comparing the market to news reports of other Black Fridays. “Everybody walks two feet and they see a neighbor and stop and talk… it’s a nice uplifting positive experience in a small community.”
Across the country, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites during the four-day holiday weekend starting on Thanksgiving Day, up from 212 million last year, according to early estimates, released Sunday, by The National Retail Federation. Americans spent more, too: the average holiday shopper spent $398.62 over the weekend, up from $365.34 a year ago.
On Friday and Saturday, over 50 vendors from all four islands gathered on San Juan to offer an array of items that included jewelry, sweets, body care products, art and more.
In between selling and shopping, vendors and customers discussed how the event is an alternative to the traditional Black Friday.
“I’ve never been to a traditional Black Friday. I refuse to go to the mall,” said shopper Tanja Williamson. “This is great, both the people and supporting the community. There’s always something new here — crafts or being surprised that your neighbor just made that.”
Joseph Crisanti, selling glass art at the market, said this is an alternative to Black Fridays seen in other parts of the country.
“There’s no corporations, no cash registers, no lines, no mobs,” he said. “Just people having fun and being friendly.”
Rosa Blair of Rose Carmen Art estimates that more shoppers were in attendance this year than last. “People more and more want to buy local,” she said.