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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

LUSH and ULTA cosmetics stores open

photo(71)Cosmetics store LUSH opened today in the outdoor portion of Fashion Fair mall. This retailer appears to target people who care about the ingredients that go into their soap, skin and hair products. Its products are not tested on animals and more than 80% are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. LUSH products have as little packaging as possible and customers can “go naked” — meaning buy something like a “bath bomb” with no packaging at all.

ULTA Beauty is holding a grand opening this weekend for its third location in the Fresno area (the others are at the Clovis Crossing shopping center and Villaggio on north Blackstone). This one is at the Marketplace at El Paseo and has been open about a week. The store sells cosmetics and perfume, along with other skin and hair products. It has a full-service hair salon.

The grand opening festivities include free makeovers and free gift certificates for the first 100 people through the doors each day until Sunday.

What to do this weekend? Shop!

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(click to enlarge)

Here’s something to look forward to if you’ve got the not-quite-Friday doldrums. This weekend is a great time to shop. Whether it’s antiques, clothing, or handmade stuff, there’s several opportunities to do a little retail therapy.

The Handmade Parade is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District building. It’s a sale featuring all things handmade, including blinged-out hats, wine glass holders and other projects. You can see CBS 47′s piece on the event here. (It includes Zara Arboleda stabbing a Peep, which I find strangely amusing.) Admission is $2 and the show benefits Central Valley Veterans.

The Spring Antiques and Collectibles Fair is Sunday in Old Town Clovis. Pollasky Avenue is blocked off from Bullard Avenue to Third Street with 90 vendors selling antiques, including jewelry, furniture, glassware and collectibles. They’ll be food, furniture-painting demonstrations and antique appraisals. It runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Will a central Fresno Walmart change your shopping habits?

photo(62)In case you missed it, Walmart has announced it will open a supercenter smack dab in the middle of town — in the former Mervyns at Blackstone and Ashlan that’s been empty for five years. You can read the full story, but basically Walmart will open a store that’s a tad smaller than typical supercenters, and includes a full grocery store, clothing, toys and electronics — but no auto center. (Much to the relief of the GoodGuys Tire just steps away, I’m sure.) Work has already started. It will create 250 jobs and open this summer.

The news inspired a flood of comments on The Fresno Bee Facebook page and the story, from people saying it will chase away prostitutes and homeless in the area to comments from people who boycott Walmart. Others said they’d really prefer an Ikea there.

The one thing that’s for sure is that a Walmart there will change things. Will it change your shopping habits? Having such a store there is likely to draw some customers away from the nearby Save Mart, Vons and the Grocery Outlet right across the street. It might mean competition for the Target at Blackstone and Bullard avenues, too. Will it change your habits? Will you shop there?

Just how excited is Fresno about H&M coming to town?

After months of rumors, River Park today confirmed that trendy clothing retailer H&M is coming to Fresno. It will open in late summer or early fall, in the former Borders spot that has been empty since 2011. H&M is a global company known for quickly getting runway looks to the masses at affordable prices. Just how excited are people in Fresno about this store? Very, very, very excited, judging from the response on social media this morning. Take a look.

My personal favorite tweet of the morning:

hm

Check out the number of shares and likes from the Bee Facebook page in the first two hours:

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QnA with Devoya Mayo of the Fresno Handmade Holiday Bazaar

tumblr_mwr9lvovj31qehjf6o1_1280The Fresno Handmade Holiday Bazaar happens 11 a.m. Saturday at Fulton 55.

The annual event — put together by the Soulflower Group– is a spot check of the Fresno craft- and hand-made scene, with 28 crafters and artist selling everything from steampunk jewelry to handmade candles and designer nail polish. So, it’s the perfect spot to pick up some last-minute gifts.

I emailed Ms. Soulflower herself, Devoya Mayo, to find out more.

Explain the event in three lines or less.

The Soulflower Group curates a D.I.Y extravaganza by hosting 28 local crafty folks at Fulton 55 for an afternoon of crafts, music, food, prizes and cocktails.

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Attention shoe lovers: New place to shop

Chris Meat Market, El Cochinito, Buffalo Ranch 084Shoes of all kinds — from leopard-print platforms to Air Jordans — are for sale at the newly opened WSS. Shoes. Style. Selection. The Los Angeles-based shoe store opened its first location last week at Kings Canyon Road and Chestnut Avenue and is planning up to four more in the Fresno area. The specific sites are still in the works, but one may be coming to Blackstone and Shaw avenues. The Kings Canyon one is the company’s first store outside of Southern California or Bakersfield.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The retailer doesn’t call itself a discount store, but prices are pretty affordable. We’re talking knee-high boots for $24.99 and flats are two for $35.
  • The store sells men’s, women’s and children’s shoes of all kinds, including the new releases of Jordan and Nike sneakers that young men line up for. Seriously, at 12,000 square feet, the store is huge.
  • It also sells clothing, from women’s jackets to Hello Kitty backpacks.

Black Friday, Buy Nothing or something in between?

Black Friday was a bit off, sales wise, this year. That’s only because retailers changed up the game and decided to open a day(ish) earlier, leaving the country’s two favorite past times (eating and shopping) to battle it out in what will now be known as Brown Thursday (can’t confirm is that’s an official title). Combining the two days, sales were up, slightly year over year.

Of course, not everyone is so taken with the idea of mass consumerism, and some chose to abstain from the whole ordeal. In a recent column, I wrote about Buy Nothing Day (aka Occupy Christmas) a grass-roots day of protest against … well all the craziness we saw on the nightly news this weekend. Camping out in front of Target, for example.

Feedback on the column was mostly positive, mostly from people who think the current state of American consumerism, with its corporate box stores and HUGE SAVINGS, is unsustainable. Or, at the very least creating bad cycles (See: Walmart’s canned food drive for its own employees).

And even with all of this year’s hubbub, there are signs that habits may be changing. Websites like Etsy and Bandcamp, for example, and the success of crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter prove that people are looking for new ways to engage their consumerism, even as the old ways are breaking down. Trend analyst Eric Garland’s piece on the fiscal troubles of Guitar Center seems to agree.

So the question goes to you: Did you shop Black Friday, or buy nothing? Or, do you just not care either way? Is the resurgence of the mom-and-pop shop on the horizon?

Saying goodbye to Urban Ornaments

Sad news for Old Town Clovis shoppers. Clothing store Urban Ornaments is closing. Business owner Teresa Darrow (who has always been a helpful source and genuinely nice person to this reporter) said the following on the store’s Facebook page:

urban

Go say goodbye and hit up her sale if you want. And even though this is sad news, it’s nice to see there’s 57 comments on that post wishing her well.

BevMo! and Chick-fil-A coming to Clovis

bevmo2Get your drink on, Clovis. BevMo! is coming. The big seller of beer, wine, spirits and everything else you need to have a party is coming to the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center at Herndon and Clovis avenues, confirms Clovis Council Member Nathan Magsig.

And Chick-fil-A is coming to the same corner too, so you can get some chicken to go with your beer.

Both places are several months away from opening. BevMo! will open somewhere between Petco and Walmart (it’s not clear yet if that building under construction right now will house BevMo! or if it will go in a future building). Chick-fil-A will be built closer to Herndon Ave., between McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr. Construction hasn’t started yet on that (that’s the Denny’s that’s being built right now).

The BevMo! is kinda a big deal because until now it just had the one store in Fresno on North Blackstone. A lot of these big retailers like to plunk down one store in Fresno, say they’ve got the Fresno/Clovis market covered and if you think it’s too far to drive from Clovis, well, too bad, so sad. Apparently BevMo! wants your business, Clovis.

In addition to what’s already there, the center will also be getting a kebob restaurant, a Korean barbecue restaurant called Shila, Sally Beauty Supply, Pacific Dental, a nail salon, Wingstop, Kay Jewelers, Yum Yum Yogurt, Jamba Juice, Kirkland’s and a Kay Jewelers.

This N That “thriftique” opens second store

This & That 027This N That Too — part boutique and part thrift shop — has opened in that funky brick stand-alone building on Olive Avenue near Palm.

The store carries a mix of clothing and accessories and furniture. There’s repainted tables and chairs, colorful sundresses and all kinds of decor items. A local man makes garden art from old rakes and shovels in the shape of peacocks and other animals. Co-owner Kirk Gallenkamp makes water fountains out of old sinks and planters. His wife and co-owner Kelly Gallenkamp offers in-home decorating services for free. The store sells all second-hand or handmade items, but is a step up from your typical thrift shop.

This N  is second location for the owners, who opened This N That Thriftique at 842 N. Fulton St., also in the Tower District, in January. (And the new location on Olive is in the same space that Urban Up-Cycle left when it moved down the street to 564 E. Olive.) Customers of the This N That stores don’t overlap, the Gallenkamps say, so they don’t mind having two locations so close together. The family — the couple and their three teen kids who work at the stores — plans to move into the little house attached to the Olive Avenue store.

They plan to continue the “mimosa Sundays” and wine-tasting nights at the new store. The grand opening is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 13, and will features sales and appetizers. Keep scrolling for some additional pictures of what they sell.

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Eclectic Portobello Road store opens

RETAILTHERAPYPortobello Road is the kind of place flea market lovers and anyone willing to hunt down a hidden gem will want to check out. The newly opened store is an eclectic mix of home decor and gifts, with an emphasis on goods made by local people.

The store sells lazy Susans made from old wine barrels by this local guy, Tom Scheidt. Someone else makes crosses from salvaged material, like old fence posts and picture frames. And owner Stacey Siroonian sells necklaces she makes from religious medals. There are new items too, such as robes and candles, along with refinished desks and interesting old stuff, such as the European demijohn — a giant glass container used in wine making.

Large throw pillows made from European grain sacks and vintage table clothes are popular (that’s them in the photo). Siroonian sells them in the store and takes custom orders. She designs and stencils the pillows and hires a seamstress to sew them. The pillows range from $150 to $270 (the rare grain sacks cost $75 alone), but the store has many low-cost items such as $10 key chains made from old spoons and forks.

The store is at 385 W. Bedford Ave. and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment (call 559/352-8907). The limited hours stem from the fact that Siroonian is a mom and running the store is a hobby on steroids for her. She also sells online (see more of her stuff here) and via Craigslist. She used to run the business out of her home, but after thieves stole $1,800 worth of product delivered to her doorstep, she decided to take over a former office building. It gives her more room than she’d have with a store at, say River Park, but also can also make it a little tricky to find because it’s not in a retail area (meaning you may want to MapQuest or plug that address into the GPS).

Keep scrolling to see a few more photos of what the store sells.

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New place to shop: Lola clothing store open in River Park

Lola and T and T consignment 002Lola, a low-priced version of the Ooh La La boutique, has opened in River Park.

Lola carries the same young, trendy, colorful clothing as the three Ooh La La boutiques around town, but nothing at Lola costs more than $30. (River Park doesn’t like to use terms like “discount” in its store names, apparently, so Lola is called an “everyday value.”) The store carries bright pink-and-white dyed cut off shorts for $24.98, gray maxi dresses for $29.98 and camisoles for $4.98.

The store owners expected their main customers — the young women who tend to hang around River Park — to gravitate to the store. (Who else can wear those shirts with the skin-baring cut-outs in the back?) But women of all ages have been shopping the store since it opened. (And I can see why. Maxi dresses and sleeveless tops can be worn by almost anyone.)

The store opened May 31, moving into the former Ooh La La location in front of Macy’s. Ooh La La, meanwhile, has moved to a space double its original size over by Ann Taylor LOFT.

Pick up a piece of Cedar Lanes history at the Old Town Flea Market

My Capture

Tim Schulz, owner/founder of ReVive Industries, will be taking orders for furniture made from wood from Cedar Lanes at the Old Town Flea Market. Photo: Mark Crosse, The Fresno Bee.

The first-ever Old Town Flea Market debuts in Clovis this weekend. The flea market will feature antique or vintage, handmade or repurposed items. It’s not a swap meet, note the organizers, who are the owners of the Vintage on Fourth shop and 5th Street Antiques in Old Town Clovis. You can read more about the event in this week’s Retail Therapy column.

One vendor sure to get lots of traffic at the flea market: ReVive Industries. They’re the folks who rescued wood from bowling lanes at Cedar Lanes before it was demolished. The husband-and-wife team will be taking orders at the flea market to have the wood made into furniture, cutting boards, frames, even pens made from the wood. How cool would it be for a longtime Cedar Lanes bowler to have a coffee table made from a lane in his living room? The ReVive folks can do “anything as small as a pen to as large as a dining room table,” says Allyson Schulz, who runs the  business with her husband Timothy.

They’re just two people (one with a day job and the other with an all-the-time job of staying home with several small kiddos) so they don’t have any of the furniture made yet, but they’ll be taking orders. The couple make furniture from other reclaimed materials as well.

You can find them at the flea market this coming Saturday and Sunday,  at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. Admission is $5 and the market runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Two big central Fresno block sales coming up

photo(45)Two of the biggest block sales of the season are coming up soon. The Harvard block sale in the Fresno High neighborhood is this weekend, followed by the Terrace Avenue sale on May 26 during Memorial Day weekend. The Terrace Avenue folks tell me their sale is the biggest, though I suspect some Harvard Ave. residents might have something to say about that.

Furniture, clothing, tools and other junk-turned-treasure are for sale at both popular block sales, with yard sales generally spanning between Van Ness Boulevard and Harrison avenues.

No matter which one you go to, there’s always something to be found — even if it’s just a bite to eat and some people watching — at the block sales.

New place to shop: Passions opens 3rd store

Bullard and West 074Passions Boutique has opened its third location, this one at Bullard and West avenues in the same shopping center as The Manhattan Steakhouse & Bar. The store sells women’s clothing, jewelry and purses, and caters to women of all ages. The store gets many mother/daughter/grandmother combos coming in together to shop because of its variety, manager Ruby Tello noted. Passions also carries plus size clothing, including plus-size  LA Idol jeans with blinged up pockets.

Passions opened its first boutique nine years ago downtown, at 2027 Tulare St., near Fulton Mall. It has another, 2-year-old store at 1085 E. Herndon Ave., near First Street. Tello said customers repeatedly requested a new store in northwest Fresno.

Sprouts grocery opens Wednesday

Sprouts 126Sprouts Farmers Market opens its first store in Fresno at 7 a.m. Wednesday with all kinds of hoopla. The store is in the former Sports Authority store on Blackstone Avenue, in the same shopping center as Bed Bath & Beyond. Here’s what you need to know about Sprouts.

  • It has an emphasis on healthy eating, which means it carries lots of produce, many organic items, along with gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and [insert dietary restriction here]-free items. There’s 8,000+ items in the vitamin and health section. Many people compare it to a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s. (Ironically, the candy section is front and center as you walk into the store.)
  • Sprouts also bills itself as an affordable grocer. I ran into NerdMom, a local blogger who has four kids and buys a lot of gluten-free food. She tells me that the store’s prices on things like gluten-free waffles and other “Whole Foods type” stuff are lower than many other retailers. Some other products, not so much. The store sells lots of Sprouts-branded packaged foods, and the company runs its own produce distribution system — buying from farmers instead of a distributor — which means it can keep prices low on many items.
  • Bargain hunters, you’ll like this trick. The specials in the store’s ads start on Wednesdays. But each Wednesday’s deals overlap, so you can get the deals in last week’s circular, along with the sales in next week’s circular, on Wednesdays.

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Abercrombie CEO: No large women allowed

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Photo: Abercrombie & Fitch

The CEO of teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t want large women wearing his clothes. That’s why the store doesn’t carry anything larger than a size 10, or any  extra-large sizes — at least that’s what Robin Lewis, co-author of “The New Rules of Retail” said in a recent interview with Business Insider about CEO Mike Jeffries.

From the interview: “He doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people,” Lewis told Business Insider. “He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids.’”

What, have the mean girls from high school morphed into a man now running an international clothing company? That’s seems like an excellent way to alienate customers (as if it isn’t off putting enough walking into the Fashion Fair Abercrombie’s dark entrance flanked by half naked boys that my 30-something self shouldn’t even be looking at).

The retailer offers XL and XXL sizes of men’s clothing mind you, but Lewis says that’s because he likely wants to appeal to beefy athletes. Apparently the CEO has never heard of a female athlete. Nor an ugly thin person.

So what do you think, shoppers? Will this make you stop shopping there? Any nuggets of truth to this way of doing business?

 

New place to shop: The Vintage Market at 601

grand openingThe Vintage Market at 601 will hold an open house/grand opening with discounts and refreshments from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

The 6-month old shop in the Fig Garden neighborhood is part antique and home decor store, part art gallery. Seven vendors, including four local artists, sell their wares at the shop. They range from little ceramic bird knickknacks for under $10 to an ornately carved wooden trunk for $795. The artists sell original art, such as the giant portraits by Paul Parichan of Sanger.

The large store is arranged in rooms, from the “man room” with its masculine furnishings to a small bathroom-themed room featuring a collection of vintage linens. Even if you’re not in a position to buy, the shop is visual feast with plenty to look at. Keep scrolling for some pictures of what you’ll find at the shop.

Owner Jacquelyn Shore and another partner offer in-home design services, often working with pieces a customer already has, for $125 an hour. (If you remember the Impatience’s Collectique store in Clovis, that was Shore’s previous business.) You can read more about the store here.

There will be food and drinks — “some of which are adult,” Shore says — at the open house. The business is located at 601 W. Shaw Avenue, across the street and a little east of Fig Garden Village. Details: (559) 226-1899.

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KwirkWorld is selling clothing

kwirkKwirkWorld, Fresno’s favorite seller of shot glasses and bacon-flavored candy necklaces, is selling clothing.

You can still buy “Chugopoly,” but much of the River Park store is now devoted to tops and dresses. Owner Kirk Psenner said the wacky stuff sells great during the holidays. But during the rest of the year? Not so much. To keep money coming in, a big portion of the floor space has been turned over to clothing that the owner says is affordable and cute. Think ModCloth-style clothing and vintage-inspired pieces. He chose clothing that’s less teeny bopperish and more geared toward women in their 20s through 40s.

Tops run in the $20 to $30+ range and dresses from $30 to $40ish. T-shirts and baseball caps are available for the fellas. Keep scrolling to see photos of the clothing.

But fear not, fans of stick-on hipster mustaches, the novelty items will take over the store again for the holidays. And there’s about to be a lot more KwirkWorld to shop at. A new smaller KwirkWorld store just opened at Sierra Vista Mall next to the movie theater. And another store is scheduled to open in the Campus Pointe shopping center at Fresno State once it’s built next year. The owner will also open a Franco’s 5 & 10, an old-school candy and toy store.

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Bargain hunters, start your engines

photo(43)It’s spring, which means yard sales, block sales and other places to search for treasure are filling up the Saturdays of those of us who enjoy bargain hunting.

There seems to be a plethora of places to shop this weekend in central Fresno, so I thought I’d compile some here. I know there are many more out there, so feel free to add any you know about in the comments section.

  • The Cambridge Avenue block sale is Saturday, promising lots of furniture, clothing and other stuff. It’s one of the first of many Saturday block sales in the Fresno High area (with yard sales happening generally between Van Ness and Harrison avenues).
  • In conjunction with that block sale, the First Congregational Church (the “big red church”) is holding its annual yard sale and bake sale from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The church is at 2131 N Van Ness Blvd. in Fresno.
  • Signs for the Old Fig Community Yard Sale have dotted Fig Garden for weeks. The event appears to be a collection of yard sales across the neighborhood, not in one particular location. It runs from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Lululemon clothing store coming to Clovis

Lululemon 002Lululemon Athletica, the yoga-inspired athletic clothing company, is opening a store in Old Town Clovis. If you’re one of the retailer’s loyal followers, this is a very big deal. The store doesn’t have any locations in the San Joaquin Valley, but some locals are still in love with its $98 yoga pants.

In a few weeks you’ll be able to buy them in a little spot in the DeWitt Building at 453 Pollasky Ave., in the breezeway between California Hot Dogs and Robin’s Nest Antiques. Opening day is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 12. The Vancouver-based store and its local workers aren’t talking to the media just yet, but the Clovis location is on the website and the sign is above the door. You can keep tabs on the store at its Facebook page.

To give you an idea of just how excited some people are about this store, I’ll defer to the previous occupant of the space, 3 Oaks Studio owner Vicki Shoemaker, who said: “All I know is everybody is really excited. I hear screams — screams of joy — coming out of there and women are going ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe they’re going to open.’” (Shoemaker’s business has moved to a bigger location at 481 Pollasky, by the way.)

Or as one blogger put it: “Lululemon: crack cocaine for the middle aged woman?”

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New places to shop: HomeGoods, Ulta, Petco open in Clovis

photo(54)Clovis residents, you don’t have to drive to River Park anymore to go to stores like HomeGoods and Ulta. The first wave of retailers has opened at the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center at Herndon and Clovis avenues.

HomeGoods opened last weekend and was slammed Sunday. Even Monday afternoon when I stopped by (don’t you love that checking out HomeGoods is part of my job?) the place was pretty busy with people checking out the décor, bedding and furniture.

Ulta Beauty is open, even though its publicized opening date isn’t until Friday. Someone was already getting a hair cut in the salon in the back of the store. And Petco is open too.

The rest of the stores will open in coming weeks, including Maurices, a women’s clothing store owned by the same company as DressBarn. It’s the first Maurices in the Fresno/Clovis market, though there’s several of them in Tulare County. Also soon to open are the Walmart Supercenter, the Habit Burger Grill, DressBarn, Famous Footwear, Anna’s Linens, Sleep Train, the Vitamin Shoppe, Great Clips, Old Navy, Yum Yum Yogurt, T-Mobile and a Subway.

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Now is the time to go thrift shopping

Photo: John Walker

A funny thing happened when I went to Goodwill last weekend. There was a lot of good stuff, new stuff — more so than normal. I got this brand new fuschia skirt with a lace overlay at the North Blackstone Avenue Goodwill for about three bucks. Normally it costs $19.99.

Wondering what was going on, I called my friendly neighborhood Goodwill PR rep, who confirmed my suspicions. This is great time to go thrift shopping, says Goodwill’s Sally Wooden. Families are clearing out their closets and garages to make way for all the new stuff they got for Christmas. And others made end-of-year donations to get tax deductions.

That means an influx of high-quality stuff in thrift shops — Goodwill and others — for you, the shopper. Because some of the donations take a while to trickle in from drop-off points and warehouses, the infusion of new stuff lasts through February.

Kids’ stuff — whether bikes or clothes — goes quickly, Wooden says, so act fast if that’s what you’re looking for.

Some things are brand new. Goodwill has an arrangement with some retailers, including Target, to take its overstock goods. So all those clothes people are returning to Target because they don’t fit? Some of it ends up at Goodwill, perhaps because the stores want to make room for spring fashions.

You’ve still got to be willing to hunt — and there’s still going to be plenty of lesser quality goods — but it’s a good time to shop if you like thrift shopping.

Black Friday: Mindless greed or harmless fun?

Photo by Bee photographer Eric Zamora

As the Bee’s retail reporter, I cover Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, every year. At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, I found myself at Fashion Fair mall, stuck in a mob of people outside Victoria’s Secret.

The crowd had completely filled up the mall corridor and come to a standstill. Hundreds of people were trying to get inside the store, which was letting only a few people in at a time. It was hot, people were breathing on me and a feeling of claustrophobia was starting to climb up my throat. I heard screaming. The forearm of the woman behind me was pressing into my back even though I’d already loudly told her to stop pushing me. I reached behind me and squeezed her arm because it seemed like the only thing to do at the time that might get her to stop.

I’d find out later that people were getting pushed and smashed up against the glass of Victoria’s Secret. All this for what? A $25 hoodie? Don’t these people know you can get a hoodie at Target for $12 any day of the year? Suddenly I came to a crystal clear conclusion: I hate this. I want to be as far away from here as possible.

But as miserable as that experience was, it’s hard to demonize Black Friday as a whole. There’s another side to the night that’s just plain fun. Earlier in the evening, people were friendly and quick to laugh as I hopped from store to store. Whenever I asked someone who spent hours waiting to get sinside a store how they passed the time, they all said the same thing: Making new friends. People who were once strangers were swapping stories, jokes and shopping strategies. The woman who ate her Thanksgiving dinner on the sidewalk outside Target befriended a cute little 10-year-old boy and the two of them laughed their way through the hours. Mothers and daughters in town for the holiday spent hours catching up.

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Black Friday gets an early start

Are you ready, Black Friday shoppers? Or should I say “Black Thursday?”

The post-Thanksgiving shopping madness starts earlier than ever this year as Toys “R” Us, Walmart and Sears break out the doorbuster deals at 8 p.m. and Target opens at 9 p.m. Thursday.

You can read all about what to expect in the Fresno area here. Note that stores like Walmart, Target and Sears are appealing to night owls and early birds alike with waves of different doorbuster deals throughout the night.

The earlier-than-ever opening times are inspiring a backlash from Target and Walmart workers, who say they’re ruining Thanksgiving.

But if you’re one of the many caffeinated Americans who make Black Friday shopping a family tradition, the opening times listed below can help you plan your strategy. Most retailers Black Friday ads will be Thursday’s Fresno Bee or are already online.

Also, many Starbucks locations near major shopping areas will be open all night Thursday, including Starbucks at River Park and the new one at Shaw and West avenues.

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