By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
On Black Friday in Tucumcari, you don’t see parking lots overflowing like you see in larger cities, but you see more cars in the lots than you’re used to seeing on most shopping days.
One of Tucumcari’s Black Friday success stories, however, was found not in its retail sector but in manufacturing — The Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory, where an employee parking lot empty last year was full.
Tucumcari’s busiest store on Black Friday appeared to be Kmart. Advertising and sales promotions kept the store busy beginning at 9 a.m., manager Albert Poitra said. Shortly before noon, all registers had lengthy lines. The store had been open continuously from 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, Poitra said.
Across town, ALCO, the city’s other entry in the big box store arena, also reported Black Friday sales better than last year’s, manager Rhonda Kandel said. While noon-hour business there was steady on Black Friday, it was manageable with two persons on checkout.
Kandel said ALCO’s advertising campaigns and sales promotions were more effective at bringing customers to the store this year. Another factor, she said, was “we have more in stock” this year than last.
Black Friday, she said, started at 5 a.m. and went to 10 p.m. Customers were offered cookies, candy and punch as they entered the store.
Smaller stores also reported good sales for Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday.
The Radio Shack store’s gift business was steady, store spokesperson April Shipley said. Radio Shack has expanded its hours this shopping season to 9-5:30 on weekdays and 10-2 on Saturdays.
So far this year, she said, remote-control toys, flash drives, memory cards , cell phones and tablet computers have led the store’s sales lists.
At Tucumcari Ranch Supply and the Wild at Heart florist shop, Black Friday was actually relatively restful. Both stores conducted most of their holiday business before Thanksgiving.
Stella Watson at Tucumcari Ranch Supply said the store’s new food business, including Watson’s Barbecue and its bread and cheese sales, kept store employees very busy during the week before Thanksgiving. The store also sells gift items, as well as farm and ranch supplies, but Black Friday business was slow. Watson said that business is likely to pick up.
Theresa Gibson, owner of Wild at Heart floral, said her Black Friday business was slow, compared to her pre-Thanksgiving sales of table centerpieces and gift wares. She said, however, her business will likely pick up considerably about a week before Christmas.
At the Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory, however, Black Friday was a work day this year, with portions of the company’s Edam and feta product lines working hard to meet demand.
“Last year, I gave them these days off,” owner Chuck Krause said, but he could not afford to offer time off this year because business is booming. He said he’s pushing operations to the limit to meet demand.
The cheese factory’s market is national. Its cheeses are sold in gourmet shops throughout the nation and frequently appear in food gift baskets. Some of the varieties include the factory’s local-flavored green-chile cheddar and jack offerings, as well as other versions of cheddar, asiago, asadero and other varieties.
The feta cheese business, however, has become the cheese factory’s staple line. The tangy cheese finds its way into Greek salads and other Mediterranean dishes, especially in restaurants nationwide.
Krause pointed out the high stacks of feta cheese boxes in his on-site storage cooler that are bound for restaurants in Chicago, Boston, San Diego and Atlanta. One batch for one city, he said, will fill four semi-trailer trucks.
On Black Friday, edam cheese makers were mixing cultures and processing blocks of product. In another area of the plant, workers were packaging and labeling feta cheese products for the storage cooler and shipment.
Krause said he’s getting ready to expand his operations.
Black Friday in Tucumcari was far from the exhausting, crowded experience of larger cities, but merchants considered it a banner day. One shop owner, noting a lack of crowds in the store, shrugged it off, saying, “This is Tucumcari.”