BANGOR, Maine — A locally owned sporting goods store seemed like an oasis of tranquility in the storm of shopping mania early Friday morning.
But some shoppers at Epic Sports in Bangor had mixed feelings about the amount of peace and calm they found as they took advantage of a 25 percent discount on everything in the store.
“It was excellent to come to Epic, because there were no crowds,” said Jim Frey, of Orrington, as he left around 7 a.m. with his purchases. “But I really am saddened that there aren’t more people here.”
Three years ago, Epic Sports owner Brad Ryder decided he would open up early on the day after Thanksgiving and also offer storewide sales to entice some of the bargain shoppers who descend upon Bangor for Black Friday.
“We just got tired of watching the cars drive by,” he said, adding that he’d love more downtown merchants to open up early, too.
The “slow trickle” of shoppers, as one employee described them, was tracking almost identically to last year, according to Ryder. A few hardy early birds actually were waiting for the store to open at 6 a.m., and many expressed their relief that Epic offered a different type of shopping experience, Ryder said.
“Our customers really enjoy not having a frenzy,” Ryder said. “And parking is not an issue today.”
However, the longtime merchant said he wished more people were as concerned about supporting local business as Frey.
Downtown business has been a “juggling act,” Ryder said and added that the recession is still an issue.
“We’re definitely feeling it. People are shopping very carefully,” he said. “People are paying attention to our sales.”
Ryder said he hoped the upcoming holiday events downtown will pull in lots of people. Last year, plenty turned out for the Festival of Lights Parade, which will take place this year at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, beginning with the holiday tree lighting in West Market Square.
“It was just amazing last year,” he said. “People remember what the downtown Bangor shopping district used to be like.”
Other events will include a storefront decorating contest for downtown merchants and the return of the free outdoor ice rink to Pickering Square as weather permits, according to the Bangor Chamber of Commerce.