Black Friday Stories. By: Dan Pankratz
I have seen my share of Black Friday’s. I remember the first few years in retail, back in the late 90’s. Black Friday was not much of a big event for my small store. But as the year move on and our store grew and added locations, Black Friday became one of the most insane weekends of my year.
Now I have many Black Friday stories I can tell. The year we had our grand opening in Ventura, and we had my in-laws and a handful of Marines help us set up in the final hours of Thanksgiving Day. Or the year we had more people in line of our Santa Maria store than Best Buy. But the story you are about to read about is the year my brother Dave and I stayed up for over 30 hours straight reopening our store after we had to file Bankruptcy less than 30 days earlier.
In 2010 the reign of One Way Boardshop has come crumbling down. After fighting through the recession that started in 2008 One Way could no longer hold off the Bankers, landlords and collection companies. We had paid down what vendors we could and on Oct 31st we filed. Our last remaining store was in the Santa Maria Town Center Mall. The owner of the mall was going through a similar fight to keep his mall from being taken over by the banks. And even though we had just filed bankruptcy, he came up with a creative way to get us a lease and finance an indoor skatepark on the second floor of the mall.
In the bankruptcy we are allowed to keep some of our fixtures that the banks or creditors did not want. Two weeks after filing bankruptcy, using those fixtures and a small loan from Dave’s Father-in-Law we got started re opening our store. I started marketing our reopening for Black Friday at 6am. We had no product, the store was a shell, and we had no money to pay anyone to work for us. Dave and I stayed up late and got up early every day working on getting the store ready to open. With no product, no credit with vendors, and most vendors would not guarantee shipping before Black Friday. Our plan was to take our 15-passenger van down south to pick up product from the vendors that would sell to us.
So, the day before Thanksgiving I got in the van and started south. I honestly can remember what brands I picked up from that day. I returned to the shop late that night to drop off what product I was able to get. When I got there Dave had been working hard all day and our computers and credit card machines were set up. There was a hand full of fixtures put together yet nothing on the wall and no product was merchandised. I remember looking at Dave and saying, “Well if we get here at 6am I think we can open by Black Friday at 6am.”
Thanksgiving Day at 6am Dave and I arrived at the shop. A stack of boxes full of product and a cluster of store fixture were in the center of the store. And the two of us got to work. The day is a complete blur to me now. In the middle of the day, we looked at each other decided we better go home to be with our families for part of Thanksgiving. We decide we would meet back in 2 hours to get back to work. After we returned, I remember saying, “I bet we can open by Midnight.” Even though we had marketed our sale to start at 6am, the mall had promoted a Midnight opening for any of the stores that wanted to. As it got closer to Midnight the reality of being able to open was clear. We were going to do it.
As we heard the doors of the mall open and the crowd of people started to come in. We flung up the gate to our store and opened for business. 18 hours earlier we had showed up to our store questioning if we would be ready by 6am the next day and we were open 6 hours early. We did some business between Midnight and 3am and thing died off. We shut the gates and decided there was no use in trying to sleep. So, we went to Denny’s and ate some food. I wish I remember what I ate, but I do remember sitting across from my best friend and brother laughing desirously about what we had accomplished. After we ate, we went back to the store around 4:30am. With an hour and a half before we would reopen, we grabbed a couple surf bags to lay on and continued to laugh about how insane the coming day would be.
Around 5:30am, we could hear people lining up at our gate waiting to get in. I could hear voices of some of our loyal customers that had shopped with us for years. It felt amazing to hear the familiar voices of people that were more than customers they were family. At 6am we opened the doors and Black Friday began. The day went by and though out the day you could hear Dave and I chatting with the customers that we knew and laughing with them about our adventure to open. We were lucky to have the experience we had. We are even more lucky we have the families we have that have supported us on all our crazy adventures.
I finally returned home and sat were I am sitting now typing this story, it was around 9pm almost 40 hours after I left the house. I don’t remember seeing my kids that day and as I sat there and stared across the living room my body and mind buzzing. My wife came to me and said, “Go to bed!”