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Shoppers swarm in Model City, but keep it nonviolent

November 29th, 2013 7:50 pm by Rick Wagner

Shoppers swarm in Model City, but keep it nonviolent

Marry Jo Weaver and other Thanksgiving night shoppers leave Target with packages. Photo by David Grace.

KINGSPORT — Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping in the Model City came and went with lots of deals and no reports of shoppers getting out of hand, in contrast to nearby Johnson City and Tazewell County in Southwest Virginia.

Some rowdy shoppers at Walmart in Johnson City Thursday evening made the Huffington Post, as did a video from Instagram that shows Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies amid chaos in the Browns Mill Road store. The video has made it to numerous national news sites.

According to the NET News Service, WCSO Capt. Larry Denny, the officer seen in the video, said the scuffle centered around a display of tablet computers on sale for $49. He said shoppers overran the display and had no regard for other people, four of whom were knocked to the ground in the surging crowd. Also, two women were trampled.

“That’s crazy,” Black Friday shopper Amy Bowery of the Rogersville area said Friday as she continued to shop in Kingsport about 2:50 p.m., despite having seen the news reports of violence.

Also, according to The Associated Press, a dispute in a Tazewell, Va., parking lot crowded with holiday shoppers turned violent Thanksgiving night, with one throwing a punch and another responding by cutting him with a knife and brandishing an unloaded rifle, officials said Friday.

Both men were charged Thursday after the altercation in the parking lot of a Walmart in Tazewell County that sent panicked shoppers scattering.

Christopher Jackson, 35, was waiting for another shopper to leave a parking space when Ronnie Sharp, 61, began sounding his horn behind Jackson’s vehicle, the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office said.

Sheriff Brian Hieatt said Jackson got out of his vehicle and confronted Sharp, punching him, and Sharp responded by severely cutting Jackson on the arm with a knife and pulling out a rifle. The rifle was not loaded.

Sharp was charged with malicious wounding and brandishing a firearm. Jackson was charged with disorderly conduct and assault and battery.

Both men were held at the Southwest Regional Jail in Tazewell County until family members paid $5,000 bond each for their release. Jackson was treated for the knife wound before he was taken to the jail. The two men are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges next week.

Neither man has an attorney, Hieatt said.

The deals at Walmart stores started at 6 p.m. on Thursday, although the stores were open throughout Thanksgiving Day.

Kmart on Stone Drive opened with a series of doorbusters with staggered starts beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday.

In contrast to trampling or cutting someone, at the Walmart on Stone Drive Thursday night, the worst two men in line at a checkout about 6:40 p.m. could complain of was that women had run up on their heels with a buggy three times each.

Going back in time a little, by 5:45 p.m. Thursday, the parking lot of the West Stone Drive Walmart was full, with shoppers overflowing into the Fatz, Tractor Supply and Lowe’s parking lots.

At the Walmart on Fort Henry Drive, folks were parking on Fort Henry and walking to the store.

People snagged deals for a $98 32-inch television set and other doorbusters for which Walmart guaranteed either a TV or a voucher of sorts for one, with the item to be shipped to the store later as long as patrons paid for it on the spot and later went online to register the purchase by Dec. 1.

An iPad Mini for $299, including a $100 Walmart card, made for an effective deal of $199 plus the tax on $299.

However, shoppers indicated some of the toughest Walmart items to snag were a limited number of $10 crock pots and other kitchen appliances.

Four-foot “giant” Superman and Batman stand-ups also proved popular.

One of shopper Amy Bowery’s Friday stops was Kohl’s in Kingsport, where she said the checkout line was about an hour long and wrapped around the store.

“It’s the longest I’ve seen the line at Kohl’s,” Bowery said.

Best Buy at the Kingsport Pavilion, on the east end of Stone Drive, had folks lined up starting in the early afternoon on Thursday. Like Walmart, Best Buy began Black Friday deals at 6 p.m., although Walmart also had additional waves of deals at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. and then again on Friday.

Over at the Kingsport Town Center, formerly the Fort Henry Mall, folks were lined up at Sears, JCPenney, Belk and other stores for an 8 p.m. opening on Thursday. The mall parking lot was all but empty at 7 p.m., but by 7:45 p.m., vehicles had streamed in and filled most of spaces.

“We’re just thankful that everyone was polite and no incidents,” said Amy Boyles, marketing manager for the mall.

Penney’s deals included crock pots and griddles for $9.99 after a $10 mail-in rebate, as well as deals on clothing, bedding items and shoes.

At Belk, table after table after table full of shoes, mostly women’s boots, were swarmed over by people, resembling a war zone of shopping. Deals included boots with a suggested retail of $70 for $19.99.

Sales associates ran about looking for specific styles and sizes for shoppers as best they could. Every checkout line snaked around corners and/or through clothing racks.

Just about every retailer in the mall, with a few exceptions, was open Thursday at 8 p.m., including Sears, Belk, Penney’s, smaller stores like Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle — which both had half-price deals — and smaller local shops such as Sally’s Treasures and I Love Books.

Some made it simple: American Eagle in the mall, Victoria’s Secret there and Old Navy at Pavilion offered everything at 50 percent off for a time.

Mall Manager Kevin Harmon said Belk had long lines of shoppers waiting at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The common space was open at the mall earlier, but stores did not open until 8 p.m.

Only a handful of mall retailers, including some eateries and jewelry stores, did not open on Thanksgiving.

Boyles said some closed at midnight or 1 a.m. to reopen about 6 a.m. Friday, but most of the “big boxes” and national chains stayed open throughout the night, and Penney’s began giving out snow globes — a tradition resumed after a one-year hiatus — at 4 a.m.

“He (Harmon) said ‘I’ve never seen as many people at the mall,’” Boyles recalled. Harmon stayed overnight at the mall but left early Friday afternoon.

“The whole dynamic has changed with Black Friday,” Boyles said of the Thursday night openings and overnight shopping versus the more traditional midnight or 6 a.m. openings on Friday.

“People will drive that trend,” Boyles said of the push of Black Friday back into Thursday. “Only time will tell.” 

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