There was no Black Friday chaos at The Mercato on Friday morning.
Yet, there was a traffic increase at Bobby Chan, store manager Erin McLaney said.
After meeting their son for lunch, the Otterbeck couple stopped by Bobby Chan.
While the Bonita Springs couple didn't normally shop on Black Friday, they would today since they were already out in Naples.
With the current economy, Becky Otterbeck said they would still spend about the same amount of money on holiday gifts for their children and seven grandchildren.
"It's hard to cut down, but it will be more practical things," she said.
Stores at Waterside Shops were busy this morning. Men and women browsed clothing racks at Sak's Fifth Avenue in search of deals.
"We are always looking for a sale," said Anita Cariati, from North Naples.
Cariati doesn't usually shop on Black Friday, but said she couldn't go to the beach because of the weather today. She was shopping with her daughter, who was visiting from out of town.
Waterside Shops offered a rest area for tired shoppers with comfortable white couches next door to Chico's.
Hundreds of people were at Kohl's when it opened at 4 a.m., said store manager Carol Curto.
Curto said more shoppers turned out this year than last year, likely because more people knew the store was there.
Kohl's opened in October 2008. Curto said turnout last year was good, but not great, because the store was still so new.
That all changed this year. Curto said there were more than 300 people in line for the store's 4 a.m. opening. And by around 7:30 a.m. the majority of the checkout stations had between 20 and 30 people waiting in line.
While big ticket items like televisions and navigational systems were a draw, Curto said she was surprised with what shoppers were immediately drawn to this morning.
“It was interesting,” she said. “People are buying apparel and shoes, things that are quite interesting to me because those aren't the typical items that we focus on when we open the doors at 4 a.m.”
But Curto said she doesn't think that means people are going to be sticking with practical gifts this year because of the economy.
“I think we're all concerned about the economy, however we're not feeling that impact,” Curto said. “A shopper comes to us for a value, and we're able to give her a great deal, and that's why she's a repeat customer with us day-in and day-out. She knows she can come here and get something very special for a person on her list for a really great value.”
Shoppers were calm at The Disney Store at Coconut Point.
Carrying large shopping bags, Fort Myers residents and friends Jennifer Lucas and Lynn Skorniak, along with their daughters, Josie Lucas, 8 and Jordyn Skorniak, 12, found good bargains Friday morning.
This holiday, Lucas said she spoke to her children about how Christmas would be different.
Although still purchasing many toys for her children, ages 8, 6, 4, and 15 months, instead of only the essentials, Lucas said she "still got more for her money."
Lucas loves shopping on Black Friday because it's fun, she said. Today, she began shopping at 2 a.m. at Wal-mart.
First time Black Friday shopper, Skorniak said she had to weigh out the good deals with the sleeping.
Jordyn, who never gets up early, was the first to wake up Friday and wake up her mother, Skorniak said.
Both mothers were concerned about the swine flu.
"I figure that shopping is no more of a risk than school," Skorniak said.
Before 8:30 a.m., the friends had already visited Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Kmart and The Disney Store. But, they weren't done for the day.
Ed Walburn, 36, and his mother had hit three stores by about 7 a.m. By the time they got to Kohl's they were on the fourth store and having decent success.
The Naples resident said he was mainly shopping for his 8-year-old son. He didn't plan on purchasing practical gifts this year, though. Instead he's looking for “fun stuff” for his son.
Walburn said he plans to stick to a budget this year, especially because of the economy.
“It's wise shopping this year,” he said. “(I haven't found) lots of stuff, but I have found good stuff I know he wants.”
Fritzie Schrade has never been shopping on Black Friday before.
But this year something came over the 70-year-old Naples resident and the early riser decided to hit the stores, instead of hanging around the house.
“I wanted to see what it was like,” she said. “I paid attention to how busy each store was.”
By 7 a.m. Schrade had hit her third – and likely final – store for the morning. Not quite done yet, Schrade had her Kohl's cart filled to the top.
Schrade said she was shopping for both Christmas and herself. Her Kohl's cart this morning had a programmable slow cooker – the cheapest one she saw anywhere – and a steam vacuum. She also grabbed a few things for her sweetie, even though he balked at her when she said she was going shopping.
Shortly before 8 a.m., several shoppers waited outside the doors at Dillards and Hollister Co. at Coconut Point
Finding a parking spot currently isn't a problem.
Three people waited outside the Pet Smart at Coconut Point Mall as the doors slid open at 7 a.m.
Like many shoppers, Cinnie Parkins, 57, said she came out early with her daughter to get better deals since money was tight.
"I know this Christmas is going to be a lot leaner than it would normally be," the Bonita Springs resident, who wore a holiday T-shirt, said.
But, that didn't mean her pets wouldn't get stockings stuffers.
Three hours after doors opened, the last shoppers in line trying to get into the Best Buy at Naples Boulevard made it in to the heated store.
According to store manager Brad Weston, some dedicated shoppers did in fact camp outside store to be the first people inside and that he expected a steady stream of bargain hunters to make it through the store before the end of the business day.
Although he didn't camp, Henry Miller said he and his daughters did get in line at around 6 a.m.
However, Miller said the family struck out in their search for a new laptop.
"No luck," said Miller, as he walked out of the store with his daughters Alexa, 14, and Jadah, 12, while carrying presents back to the car.
It was the second shopping stop today for the Tampa residents.
"We got to Wal-mart at 4:30 a.m.," Miller said adding he was initially hoping to score a laptop for his oldest daughter there. "We didn't get the laptop, but we did get a TV and my GPS."
The morning rush is over at Best Buy Coconut Point.
Around 7 a.m., there were no more lines at Best Buy, after having about 350 waiting outside to get in earlier today.
Store manager Scott Dowen said it had sold out of a hot item this holiday season- notebooks, but still had flat screen TVs.
Nearby, it was the same at Office Max and Pet Smart at Coconut Point Mall in Estero.
Around 6 a.m., customer lines were moving quickly at Best Buy in Coconut Point Mall.
The Fagiani family traveled from North Port to Lee County for some holiday shopping.
Vicki Fagiani, 37, who took the day off from work, has been shopping on Black Friday ever since their first child was born. She said enjoys it and the deals.
This was the first year that she didn't sleep. The couple had been shopping since midnight.
For the first time, Fagiani's husband Danny Fagiani, came along.
He said Best Buy was much more organized then their early morning stop at Toys R US in Fort Myers.
Despite the economy, the Fagiani family was still planning to purchase Christmas gifts for their sons, ages 10 and 7.
"It could have been better, just the fact that the children are getting older the gifts are getting more expensive," he said.
The couple checked out from Best Buy in about 10 minutes after purchasing an IPod.
Naples shoppers aren't letting threats of swine flu stop them from getting a good deal this year.
Shoppers at the Coastland Center early this morning took no outward precautions against the flu.
Stephanie Adams, visiting from Canada, said she wasn't letting lingering fears stop her.
"I'm taking no extra precautions," she said.
That doesn't necessarily ring true for stores, those. Bob Ricketts, JcPenneys store manager, said checkouts are stocked with antibacterial wash for employees.
"We've had very little sickness," he said.
The parking lot at the North Naples Super Walmart was more than full by the time Ramon and Maria Pereda arrived at 2:30 a.m. with their 11-year-old son, Guillermo.
The North Naples couple was hoping to get in line early enough to score a $199 laptop.
"They only put out about 13 of those laptops," said Maria Pereda, 46, as the family walked to their car just before 6 a.m. with two shopping carts full of goods. "We didn't even get to see them."
Regardless, Ramon Pereda said the family members did get to buy some of their other must-get items including an HP printer and a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner.
"Now we're headed to Miromar, to buy some clothes," said Ramon Pereda, 46, adding the family is sticking to its normal shopping pattern of electronics and clothing for Christmas.
As for the threat of swine flu, he said the family wasn't being deterred from shopping by it and that he was not worried.
North Naples residents Mary and Mike Davis were also on the hunt for the elusive laptop.
However, by the time the couple arrived at Walmart, the store was just too full of shoppers.
"We got here late, at about 5:15 a.m.," said Mary Davis, 59, as the couple got into their car empty-handed and headed home. "It's packed and the lines are very long."
The Coastland Center mall in Naples officially opens at 6 a.m. but the halls are already full of shoppers looking for a deal.
Sears, which like J.C. Penney's opened at 4 a.m., had a steady stream of shoppers coming through the doors around 5 a.m. The popular store had deals on tools and other goods for around the house.
Back at Penney's, Stephanie Adams was on the quest for the perfect winter vest. The Canadian resident said she was shopping with her daughter today.
"I think it’s about more practical things this year," she said.
Around 400 people were lined up outside the North Naples Super Target as the doors slid open at 5 a.m. this Black Friday.
"This is our second stop," said Monica Goldi, 33, while standing outside the store minutes before the store opened and firmly grasping a shopping list. "We wrote our strategy yesterday."
For North Naples resident Goldi, it was a family affair, with her mother-in-law, Nina Rizek, and her sister-in-law, Stefany Aceves, 28, in tow.
"We have the sales and stops memorized," said a smiling Rizek, 50, who was visiting from Tampa.
At the front of the line, Golden Gate Estates resident Matthew Wendt said although he was not the first person to arrive at the Target parking lot, he was the first to get out and make a bee-line for the door at 3 a.m. -- in spite of the mid-50s weather.
"I did ToysR'Us at midnight and left there at 2:15," said Wendt, 35, who was angling to get two small televisions and a board game at Target. "Went home and decided to come here."
By 5:15 a.m., Wendt was out in the parking lot putting away the gifts and headed to his next stop.
"First in, first out," he said with a grin.
Bob Ricketts, manager of the J.C. Penney at the Coastland Center mall in Naples, said he expects several thousand people to pass through the doors before 1 p.m. today.
J.C. Penney was one of the first stores to open this morning. The store opened its doors around 4 a.m. More than 100 people stood in line outside waiting for the store to open.
Ricketts said the early morning turnout was on par with years past, and said he's optimistic today's turnout will continue throughout the holiday season.
“I think it will be one of the better seasons,” he said.
Shoppers early this morning weren't necessarily looking for electronics or other big ticket items. Instead they were out grabbing home goods – like waffle makers and coffee pots – and clothing.
Gianna Harts, 39, said this year Black Friday means shopping for practical buys. Harts and her husband hit the stores every year, but this year their goal was to find deals on clothes, home accessories and workout gear.
“There wasn't a lot of gift stuff,” in the ads, Harts said.
Harts stood in the middle of J.C. Penney's bedspread aisle looking for a bed-in-a-bag set. The sets, usually around $100, were on sale for about $50 this morning.
Harts wasn't the only one shopping for practical gear. Maria Cavallini said she planned on sticking to “the basic stuff” for Christmas this year. This morning, Cavallini was scouring the store looking for a jacket, before heading to the next store in her shopping circuit.
The line outside the Best Buy off Naples Boulevard is well more than 150 people long. And growing toward 200 as the minutes tick on at the start of a chilly Black Friday morning.
It’s 1 a.m. and Juan Villegas of Colombia arrived a few minutes ago. He’s in the back of the line at Best Buy. He’s one of the few people interviewed this morning who said he plans to spend more this year.
Dan Rojas and Sophia Paris, who is from Venezuela, are at a card table playing Dominoes near Best Buy off Naples Boulevard. She’s winning. He came out to buy a laptop, camera and more. He isn’t worried at all about the crowd and swine flu. As for her? She’s not there to buy: “I’m just here to support him,” she said.
Vincent Giannone of Marco Island is outside Staples at Naples Boulevard. He and another person brought guitars and “we’ve been jamming a little bit” as they wait for a third person to arrive for their trio. With the various computer, GPS and other units he plans to buy early this morning, he expects to save $800 on the specials. He already has a plan for next year: Bring a portable toilet and charge people to use it.
Will Scoggins of Tampa is visiting family in Lehigh Acres and came out with his wife, Connie. He waited outside at Miromar Outlets. “I’m just here to protect her,” he said. As for the fear of catching swine flu from someone in the masses? Nope. “I’ve got faith in God,’’ he said.
When Joyce Wadsworth of San Carlos Park pulled into Miromar Outlets in Estero, she said, “I thought I was going to a concert or something.” There with daughters Cathy, 17, and Marjie, 14, to buy gifts for friends and family, it was the girls’ first time out and they’ve never seen Miromar so busy. “Back in the day it was,’’ mom offered.
Former state Sen. Burt Saunders of Naples is out at Miromar Outlets in Estero with his 14-year-old son, Jonathan, buying clothing items. “We’re looking for bargains. If we see a bargain we’re going to buy it whether we need it or not,” Saunders said. Jonathan called the parking scene and crowd “a little bit crazy.”
Miromar Outlets in Estero opened at midnight and the place is jumping. Parking spots already are few and far between. In fact, some people already are parking in the grass and in shopping centers across Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. The outlet center is packed.
Workers from McDonald’s restaurants are going around to the people waiting outside stores along Naples Boulevard and taking orders for hot coffee, sodas and sausage McMuffins.
Michael Gober of Marco Island is there to buy a laptop. He and friends have started a fire in a coffee can to help try to stay warm.
At Best Buy on Naples Boulevard, the crowd has settled in for the long haul with sleeping bags, boomboxes and chairs.
Lisa Obisa of Naples is first in line, and has switched off the spot with her boyfriend. They got in line at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. She’s in health-care and isn’t worried about swine flu among the masses. As for her buying plans this year? “I’m buying a lot less this year than last year” because money is tighter.
Marco Salinas of Naples, with a blanket tucked up to his nose, said he has worked in retail for 12 years, so this is the first time he’s gotten a chance to take part in the Black Friday experience. “I got here at 5 p.m. and there were 15 people ahead of me. Now there are 30 people ahead of me” because of people cutting in line, he said.
The line at Best Buy at Gulf Coast Town Center already has grown to about 45 people.
Pablo Argueta is first in the line of five people in the back of the Walmart Super Center on Collier Boulevard to get a $298 HP laptop. He works there, but like everyone else must get in line. He will spend less this year, he said, because he has just one job compared with two jobs a year ago.
Among others in line outside Best Buy at Gulf Coast Town Center in San Carlos Park are a couple of friends from Fort Myers who are entertaining the others with a guitar and a djembe, a type of drum. Charles Vaught, an FGCU student, sent a text message to his friend, Kenny Campbell, around 9:30 p.m. and suggested they go out to the Best Buy and bring their musical instruments. Vaught said he plays at FGCU with others once a week to raise money for charity. They had Thanksgiving dinner with family and then showed up tonight. Vaught isn’t afraid of swine flu circulating in the shopping masses: “Why would you want to live in that much fear?”
Scott Selznick of Naples is in line to finish his Christmas shopping tonight by buying a laptop at Walmart Super Center on Collier Boulevard. The laptop is the last thing he plans to buy and said it’s for himself. Is he worried about swine flu among the throng of shoppers? “Nah. I work in the restaurant business. I figure if anyone is going to get it, I am.”
The first person in line outside the Best Buy at Gulf Coast Town Center is asleep. Others among the 30 or so in line say he is an FGCU student who arrived to get in line at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Second in line is Adong Xu, of Fort Myers, who had turkey with friends on Saturday but skipped it Thursday. He’s Chinese, and Thanksgiving “is a traditional American holiday.” He’s there with friends to get computer equipment. Exchange student Nan Zhang of Yantai, China, says it is “a little bit crazy” to be out doing this but said the computer would cost him half as much here as it would in China.
George Lopez is first in line in sporting goods at Walmart Super Center on Collier Boulevard, where eMachine laptops are $198. He’s been there since 7 p.m. “The cheap price is the reason,’’ he said.
Second in line is Maria Rivero, from Bolivia, who said she is there because: “I will go to my country for Christmas. I want to buy (the laptop) for my sister.”
About a dozen cars are in the parking lot at the Walmart Super Center on Collier Boulevard. A sales associate says tickets will be given out at 2 a.m. for people to buy items starting at 5 a.m.
Bass Pro Shops at Gulf Coast Town Center in San Carlos Park doesn’t open until 6 a.m. but is offering Black Friday shoppers a chance to camp out overnight to get into the store first. Thing is, there’s a Marriott nearby and a couple of people who walked by headed to the hotel instead.
“There’s nobody been here,” said security guard Ted Lundgren of Criminal Justice Protections, adding he expects people to start arriving around 4 a.m.
Help us cover Black Friday
Daily News staffers and correspondents will be sending in updates from Black Friday events around Collier and Lee counties starting before midnight.
Our reporters will be out at Miromar Outlets, Bass Pro Shops and shops on Naples Boulevard overnight and at area malls, shopping centers and discount outlets early Friday.
Do you plan on shopping on Black Friday? Send us a cell phone picture or cell phone video of your shopping experience. Go to participate.naplesnews.com to submit your photos and videos.
Come back to naplesnews.com for blog updates, videos and photos from Black Friday.