NEWPORT BEACH — Walking down Marine Avenue on Balboa Island on Friday, it was hard to tell that this was the busiest shopping day of the year across the country.
The shops were open on the morning after Thanksgiving, and store owners had posted signs to lure folks in with sales of 30% off, or 2-for-1 bargains.
But there were no frazzled parents elbowing each other for the year's hottest Christmas presents, or penny-pinching young adults and grandparents scurrying in and out trying to hoard the savings.
"Our clientele is mostly local, it's people who stay away from the malls," said Kim Lincoln, owner of Candace Paige boutique. "Right now is when our local customers sustain us."
It was night and day compared to malls such as South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. Folks waited overnight at both locations, with security providing traffic control at South Coast, and Fashion Island's parking lots overflowing with would-be customers.
Linda Florentine, in town from northern Lake Tahoe to visit family, was having none of the Black Friday hustle and bustle. Carrying a couple of small shopping bags on Balboa Island, she said she was deliberately patronizing the independent stores.
"I like to shop, but maybe not that much," she said. "I live in a small town. If we don't support our local businesses, they won't survive."
It seemed that many were following Florentine's advice, helping small store owners survive despite a sputtering economy.
"We're doing really good," said Herb Terrell, owner of Gloss boutique at The Lab in Costa Mesa. "Black Friday is definitely helping us a lot, actually. We'll see if we have anything [left on sale] by Sunday."
Terrell said he opened up the store at 7 a.m., about three hours early, to take advantage of Urban Outfitters' early opening. Most places at The Lab, on Balboa Island and even in Corona del Mar were treating Friday as another shopping day.
Raul Orozco, from Santa Ana, was one of the group of about 20 young men standing outside of Troy Lee Designs at The Lab at about 9:30 a.m., waiting for the store to open. The parking lot was just starting to fill up but Orozco had been there since 10 p.m. the night before.
He said he was waiting for Blends to open, a shoe store next to Troy Lee that had a limited number of Michael Jordan basketball shoes. Other than that, Orozco noted, his shopping was limited.
"I'm prioritizing what I need and what I don't need to buy," he said.