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Black Friday shoppers lament loss of Toys R Us

November 24, 2018

Black Friday has kicked off the holiday shopping season, but for local shoppers, the experience wasn’t the same without one toy store that used to be a highlight on the shopping route.

“Without Toys R Us, it has made a big difference,” Nanty Glo resident Dionne Beyer said. “That was usually our second stop every year.”

Many shoppers said that Black Friday shopping is not the same without Toys R Us, which was once open near the Johnstown Galleria mall, after the company closed earlier this year.

On Friday morning, Beyer was shopping in Ollie’s Bargain Outlet along Scalp Avenue. The bargain outlet purchased nearly $200 million worth of Toys R Us inventory, according to an advertisement there.

Beyer said that over the last eight years, she has finished all her holiday shopping on Black Friday.

“This year, it’s not going to happen, and it’s mostly because Toys R Us isn’t open,” she said, adding that Walmart was her only option left to purchase toys for her four boys.

“We really didn’t have much left there,” she said of Walmart’s toy selection. “It’s tough, honestly, without a toy store ... it’s tough.”

In Somerset, shoppers don’t have many choices by the way of big box stores, but there are many locally owned shops that sell unique toys and antiques.

Young Heart Books & Toys in Uptown Somerset changed ownership last year. Owner {span}Ann Kelly sells many books for kids and teens as well as puzzles, games and toys.{/span}

{span}Small Business Saturday was quite busy for the local toy store last year, according to Kelly. They are hoping for a busy day this year as well. {/span}

{span}Shoppers looking for unique items look to the antique stores, such as Sugar Grove Antiques in Somerset, Rockwood Mill Shoppes in Rockwood and Route 30 Antiques in Central City.{/span}

In Richland Township, several hundred shoppers were hunting deals Thanksgiving night at Walmart.

Among the shoppers was Johnstown resident Derek Link, who said he was looking to purchase toys for his daughter.

“There ain’t no place left to shop,” Link said. “That’s the sad part. With Toys R Us going down, we’re forced to shop at Walmart. Walmart claims to have everything, but they never do.”

Angelina Foster and Kristin Gokey, of Jackson Township, were also shopping for toys at Walmart.

Foster said she now finds it difficult to look for toys for her daughter.

“It’s harder to find stuff without Toys R Us. We just said, ‘Where’s all the cars?’ and this is all they got,” she said, adding that shopping online was not an easy experience, either.

“We tried shopping last night on Walmart.com and their website was crashed.”

Other shoppers found deals at the Galleria. Nearly 700 shoppers were waiting outside the mall when J. C. Penny’s opened its doors at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Christina Martinko, the store’s general manager, said about 70 sales associates were working Thursday and that more associates came to work on Friday.

When the store opened on Thanksgiving, it did not close until 10 p.m. Friday.

“We do shorter shifts so that everybody’s not overly tired. It’s still exciting,” Martinko said. “I think there’s a stigma with not being able to spend time with your family, but this is my family.”

Martinko said the store’s sales associates have a close bond with each other, which she said makes their work feel less like a job and more like being with family.

“We get to know each other on a personal level, so it’s just like family here. We have our Thanksgiving dinner here (and) I think that’s the best part.”

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