Nancy Volesky stood outside The Gap in Rimrock Mall on Friday morning and held a sack of bargains nearly as big as she is.
Volesky and her 16-year-old granddaughter, Devon Goldhammer, both of Billings, hit the mall at 5 a.m. after shopping at Target in the early hours of Black Friday.
Volesky was still full of energy even though she had been in the Run! Turkey Run! race Thursday morning and had gone home to fix turkey and stuffing that she took to her daughter’s house for the holiday dinner.
In bed by 7 p.m. Thursday, she was up early to get her Christmas shopping done.
She nabbed a $120 suitcase for $70 and bought a coffee maker for $30 off, both at J.C. Penney. She also bought towels, pajamas and clothing as presents for her five children and seven grandchildren.
A disciplined shopper, she followed a list and bought only gifts for others.
Volesky was an exception to what most mall shoppers planned to do.
According to a mall survey of 205 shoppers Friday morning, 87 percent said they would buy something for themselves during the day.
Stephanie Downs of Roundup and her two grown daughters still were smiling even after shopping for more than three hours and not being able to find everything on their lists.
Daughters Kaycee Downs of Billings and Ashley Rost of Laurel each recently bought a house. So the women mostly were looking for household items for the new homeowners.
Their upbeat moods may be attributed to the fact that they have been doing an early-morning holiday shopping spree for years.
“We’re veterans,” Kaycee Downs said.
Stephanie Downs also said that other shoppers have been polite and genial, unlike last year, when the family saw people pushing and shoving when the mall opened at midnight.
Natalie Ball of Billings, who was shopping with her mother, Ellen Myers, recited a long list of bargains she bought Friday, including pillows, a wet-vac and outfits for her young granddaughter.
But she decided to splurge and pay full price for a Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 calendar for her husband.
“He’s worth it,” she said.
At 8 a.m., the mall parking lot was about three-quarters filled and stores were doing brisk business, but they were not as jammed as they had been when most of the stores opened at midnight.
About 5,000 people crowded into the mall between 10 p.m. and midnight, said Kendall Merrick, Rimrock Mall property manager.
One store, which she declined to name, had the highest Black Friday sales volume for any store in its national chain, Merrick said.
Although only 10 mall stores opened at 10 p.m. Thursday and most of the rest at midnight, the mall opened its doors at 10 p.m. to ease congestion and prevent any rude behavior that sometimes accompanies Black Friday.
“It went beautifully,” Merrick said.
By midnight, about 500 people had lined up to get into Herberger’s, she said.
Dillard's, scheduled to open at 8 a.m., unlocked its doors at 7 a.m. instead because so many people were waiting outside.
The early-morning hour may have taken a toll on at least one young woman, who appeared to be a store clerk. The conscious young woman was lying on the floor near a cashier station, perhaps after feeling ill. Attentive shoppers and employees hovered around her.
Deep discounts brought crowds to downtown stores, too.
At Marcasa, shoppers got 50 percent off Friday morning, 40 percent off in the early afternoon and 30 percent off the rest of the day and Saturday.
That lured a “crazy” number of people into the shop at 104 N. Broadway, said owner Jeremiah Young.
“We’ve never had so many people in this store,” he said at noon. “It’s as packed as a big-box store.”
At Neecees, which offered 20 percent off everything from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and decreasing percentages off the rest of the day, things were “steady and fun,” said manager Valda Jones.
The extra holiday business kept a crew of nine busy.
While most customers were shopping for presents, about one third were buying for themselves.
Employees decorated the store at 2821 Second Ave. N. two days earlier in the week and then took Thanksgiving off before helping others shop for Christmas.