The 7-month-old son of Tiffani Kowalski and Ron Fideldy did not do the mall thing on the first Black Friday of his life.
"We left him with grandma," Kowalski said during a cinnamon roll break at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto. "We didn't know how crazy people were going to be."
It wasn't crazy at all, just crowded as usual for the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping tradition. Kowalski and Fideldy arrived from Lathrop at 6 a.m., two hours after the first of the Vintage Faire stores opened.
"Baby Gap was having a really great sale, so we went there first," Kowalski said. "We're not morning people, but we're just out here today for the deals."
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Many stores in and near Stanislaus County got early shoppers, some of them looking for bargains, others enjoying the camaraderie.
Stephanie Bravo of Modesto hit the mall with daughters Nicole and Selena, who already had lined up for the 5 a.m. opening of Target in Riverbank.
"At 3:45, my girls were up," she said. "They didn't have a list in mind, but they were out the door."
Retailers across the nation hope their holiday season business improves over last year, when a severe recession was setting in.
Bravo said she was glad to boost the Modesto-area economy with holiday spending.
"We'll survive," she said. "Modesto will be better."
Bravo found one other thing to like amid Friday's frenzy: "People weren't grumpy. They were really nice."
Her sister-in-law, Lorna Hernandez, said her approach to Christmas shopping in a weak economy is to give practical presents, such as clothing.
"We're going to make sure it's put to good use," she said.
Lucia and Gerardo Santillan came all the way from Stockton because they like Vintage Faire's selection. They arrived at 6 a.m.
"You find a lot of stuff that's cheap that you don't find throughout the year," Lucia Santillan said. "The only thing I really don't like is the lines, but it's worth it."
Apex Communications, which sells cell phones and other gadgets at the mall, had a Black Friday sale sign but not much business early on.
"A lot of traffic, but I've made only one sale so far," employee Talina Pedrioli said at 8:20 a.m. "I think Black Friday is more for the bigger stores like J.C. Penney, Target, Home Depot."
Some popular items were sold out by mid-morning at Modesto's Wal-Mart on Plaza Parkway.
"Everything I wanted at Wal-Mart was sold out," said Monica Sliva of Turlock, who went to the store in search of a $69 Canon digital camera. Surveying the store, she said, "It's like an earthquake happened."
McHenry Village in Modesto did not have the crowds that the mall and big-box stores saw, but business was steady, said Chris Hansen, manager of Valley Sporting Goods, one of the center's larger stores.
Crescent Work & Outdoor in downtown Modesto was open on Thanksgiving, the start of a two-day sale with an emphasis on flannel shirts and other cold-weather clothing.
"The first five minutes, we counted 30 people," co-owner Craig Stott said Friday. "We were only open for four hours and we were moving all four hours."
Bee online editor Brian Clark contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.