DADE CITY — As their corporate counterparts rise before the sun Friday to unlock doors for throngs of bargain hunters, shopkeepers in Dade City will wake at normal hours, eat breakfast and prepare for a busy day, minus the madness.
Yes, there will be sales, but they won't start at 5 a.m. There will be crowds, but not like you'd see at the mall. And camping out the night before to nab that $3 toaster is not necessary in this downtown shopping district.
"Dade City is sort of the anti-Black Friday," said Lunch on Limoges owner Phil Williams, echoing the sentiment on Seventh Street, home to many of the city's shops.
Lori Cunningham said her three stores, including Lori Anne's and Church Street Shoppe, offer an "escape from the rat race" on Black Friday.
In her 17 years of business in Dade City, Cunningham said, the day after Thanksgiving brings tons of shoppers to downtown, boosting her sales 50 to 75 percent more than a typical Friday.
She said customer service and quaint surroundings are what make shoppers come to Dade City, not door-buster deals.
"Our niche is not gimmicky," Cunningham said.
Even if the independent shops wanted to compete with the likes of Target or Best Buy, the big-box stores have an advantage over Dade City shopkeepers. It's called an advertising budget.
Most Dade City shopkeepers can't afford to send out fliers promoting their Black Friday deals, and frankly, they say they don't need to. Enough people come into town for a family stroll or a post-mall meal at a downtown restaurant.
"Dade City always gets a good crowd on (Black Friday), and just having a sign in the window brings people in," said Gayle Hogan, owner of Grapevine Antiques, who will advertise her 15 percent discount on select furniture and clocks this weekend.
Another advantage the chain stores have over Dade City merchants is the funds to buy a lot of product at a low price that can be passed on to shoppers.
Many Dade City stores sell specialty items that are one-of-a-kind.
The chain stores also use cheap door-busters to lure in Black Friday shoppers in the hopes they'll fill their carts with regularly priced items.
Dade City won't see a large enough increase in shoppers to justify the cost of stocking up on a promotional item, merchants said. David Hevia, owner of Kiefer Village Jewels, said he has tried offering deals on past Black Fridays, including reduced-price earrings or free jewelry cleaner with select purchases, but he ended up losing money. "People are looking for such a deal that you practically have to give stuff away to get them in the door," he said. "That is a game for the big-box stores to fight out with each other."
"If someone is shopping for a Rolex, they don't want a crowd around them all here for free jewelry cleaner."
And chances are, he said, the Rolex buyer can splurge for the jewelry cleaner.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 435-7312.