LIMA — The scene at several Lima-area shopping centers Thanksgiving night was reminiscent of Black Friday, with long lines wrapping around retail outlets that decided to open their doors during the holiday.
Thousands of local shoppers got a head start on their holiday shopping during Thanksgiving, as stores such as Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Dunham’s Sports and the Lima Mall offered discounted prices on a variety items throughout the evening.
By 5 p.m., the line at Toys R Us stretched from the store’s front entrance to the back of the facility. Store manager Dan Tucker stood near the front of the store, letting 50 shoppers in at a time until the line dissipated.
“We let 50 in at a time so they can get their cart and get through the beginning of the store without having to worry about a rush,” Tucker said. “It makes for a lot safer shopping experience for everybody.”
Tucker said Toys R Us has been opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving for the last several years. He estimated that thousands of shoppers would walk through the doors from Thursday evening through Black Friday. The store will stay open through 11 p.m. Friday, meaning it will have been open for 30 straight hours.
Lima resident Brett Stoneburner was first in line at Toys R Us. Stoneburner said he and his wife and sister had been waiting since 1:30 p.m.
“We’re shopping for the whole family,” Stoneburner said. “We’ve got about 20 nieces and cousins, so we’re trying to buy for everybody.”
Stoneburner said this year’s hot-ticket item is the nabi Jr. learning tablet, which is a tablet computer for children. He said it is normally $150, but Toys R Us was selling them for $40 on Thursday.
Lima resident Richard Ward was also in line for the nabi Jr. tablet, which he said he was buying for his 5-year-old son. He admitted it would be difficult to purchase the tablet without the discounted price Toys R Us was offering Thursday.
“I don’t have much [money], so I’m here because that’s all I can do for my kids,” Ward said. “I try to do what I can.”
Next door to Toys R Us, the line at Dunham’s Sports was not nearly as long as its neighbor. Linda Jolliff, of Columbus Grove, said she was able to get in and out. Though she didn’t have to wait long, Jolliff said she was still able to get a good deal on a pair of boots.
Jolliff said that because her family celebrates Thanksgiving on another day, the holiday was the perfect time to find a deal while avoiding the hectic atmosphere of Black Friday. Along with the discounted prices, Jolliff said she viewed the shopping experience as a chance to bond with family and friends.
“It’s always fun,” said Jolliff, who was on her way to meet her daughter at Toys R Us. “I’m usually with a couple of other people, so we just hang out for awhile and have fun. It’s cool to meet other people and see some people you haven’t seen in awhile.”
Down the street at Kohl’s, shoppers were lined up across the width of the building. One of the hundreds of people who was waiting in line for the store to open was Dawn Cooper, of Van Wert. Like Jolliff, Cooper viewed the experience as a bonding moment with her daughter and granddaughters.
“We’re trying to get these guys started at it early,” Cooper said of her granddaughters. “It’s always a fun family event.”
Cooper said it was a day-long experience for she and her family. She said they arrived in Lima by 11 a.m., ate at Golden Corral and spent the evening shopping at Meijer, J.C. Penny and Kohl’s.
“Everything has been good,” she said about Thursday’s shopping experience. “There’s been no trouble anywhere, and everyone’s been very nice and considerate.”
Bluffton residents Josh Perry and Jennifer Thompson agreed with Cooper, saying that shopping on Thursday “wasn’t as crazy” as Black Friday.
“It’s nice because you don’t see all the violence and stuff,” said Perry, who was holding his 2-year-old daughter, Delilah.
Thompson said another benefit of shopping on Thanksgiving is not having to wake up early in the morning.
“I don’t think I’d want to drag her [Delilah] out in the middle of the night — that would not go over well,” she said with a laugh. “Coming here the night before Black Friday just works out a lot better.”
Reach John Bush at 567-252-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.