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Bring In The Bucks Already


So much for retail hell. Maybe you, dear shopper, are feeling it. So far, some of the small shop owners in Boise are feeling pretty good, even as they log 12-hour days and pray to the gods of merchandising that their store socks in enough cash to greet January 1 with something like relief.

For shoppers, stress is undeniable. Witness the mayhem that was unleashed at the Boise Towne Square when, on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, an estimated 3,000 shoppers crushed each other in a stampede that began at 1 a.m., the hour when the mall opened its doors to shopping for the Christmas season. Later, when broken doors were fixed and some shoppers were treated for injuries, we had to ask ourselves: Have we gone crazy?

The answer is: yes, of course. If you waited in line outside a mall in sub-freezing temperatures just to go shopping at a store that was open the day before, it's hard to say you're not crazy.

It's called "Black Friday." Yes, it might have something to do with the budgets of store owners getting out of the red, but the symbolism for shoppers is undeniable.

And in downtown, smaller retailers are trying out their own brand of crazy for the holidays. Chief among them has to be Tom and Erica Matthews, the couple who recently opened Foxtrot Style For Living, a clothing and accessories boutique, in the Linen District. At their opening night party, shoppers wandered the warehouse-looking space with two vintage cars parked in the middle of it, while a band set up to play. At a time when most established stores are just hoping to cash in, the Matthews were just getting their first customers in the door.

It wasn't easy, said Erica Matthews. They signed the lease for the store a month ago. They did all their buying in California shortly thereafter. They set the store in just a week, then re-set the entire space at midnight the night before the opening. She disputes the notion that opening just before Christmas is nuts.

"If you open any time after Christmas, then you're in trouble," she said. "The season really diminishes after Christmas. This time, we can hit with a big, 'Pow, pow.'"

At American Clothing Gallery, owner Lil Kurek said her coat and sweater store is now in its best months, even if they're hectic.

"It's not so much stressful, except it's busy," Kurek said. Yet, the people coming in the door sometimes seem a little frazzled.

"We're the ones who need to keep the level head here," Kurek said. Also, she said, because most of the hard work of stocking the store was done months ago, there's nothing left to do but roll with the punches and make customers happy.

"As a retailer, by this time if I don't know what my game is, it's not going to happen," Kurek said.

Likewise, Mishel VandenBusch, owner of Eyes of the World Imports, says now is not the time to lose your marbles over a hectic holiday.

"We try to just have a good time," VandenBusch said. "None of it's really that serious, right?"

Well, it's serious enough that she's now spending regular 12-hour days in the store, all through this month. But after 13 years in the business (and several locations­—Eyes of the World opened its Linen District location in August), VandenBusch knows that the time to stress out is in October and November, when you're ordering and shipping in merchandise. But December?

"I've learned not to freak out," she said. "I kind of chill out. OK, it's finally here."