Our Voice: Keep local shops in mind this shopping season

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which ideally should be a time to gather with friends and family and reflect on the good in life.

But the reality is that, for many families, Thanksgiving has become the holiday to leap-frog over so they can begin their hunt for Christmas bargains. People are so eager they wait in the cold and dark just so they can bolt through the shop doors when they open.

Many major retailers accommodate this consumer madness, and now the starting time for Black Friday is at the point where many who toil in retail won’t have their turkey digested before they have to head to work. Several of the chain stores in the Tri-Cities will unlock their doors Thursday evening, and that includes Columbia Center mall.

For those who enjoy the rush and the discounts, knock yourselves out. With the right attitude, Black Friday, or the pre-Black Friday as it has now become, does not have to be a nightmare.

However, there is an alternative to this furious spending tradition, and we would like to suggest Tri-Citians consider putting local, family owned businesses on their shopping radar. And they won’t have to rush through their pumpkin pie to do it.

Some of the most unique gifts can be found at stores that are locally owned. If you haven’t spent much time browsing through the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland or the downtown areas in Kennewick and Pasco, make it a point this year to have a look. There also are great boutiques and specialty shops throughout the Tri-Cities that offer a completely different shopping experience.

Often the customer service is excellent and personal. In addition, the families who own local businesses live in the Tri-Cities and care about its economic health, so much of the money spent locally ends up going right back to the community.

In addition, there are some special local shopping events planned that promise to be a lot more fun than spending time looking for parking and waiting in line.

For instance, the Uptown Shopping Center is planning its Winter Fest on Thursday, Dec. 4, 5 p.m.-9 p.m., with special treats and discounts at participating stores and a visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 6.

Downtown Pasco will hold a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at Peanuts Park that also includes a Santa visit, food and music.

In Kennewick, the outdoor ice skating rink will open Nov. 29 at the corner of Benton Street and Kennewick Avenue. The rink will run Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 27 and 28. Also, on Dec. 6 there will be a special celebration at the Flag Plaza with music, face painting for the kids, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus and other activities.

The major retailers are a boon to the Tri-Cities and we are glad we have such a variety. But we also appreciate the family owned businesses that sometimes get overlooked by the big dogs. This season, give the local shops a try if you haven’t before. They have a lot to offer as well.