ROCKINGHAM — Shirley Smith was on the hunt for a rice cooker.
She’d already spent four days baking and cooking for Thanksgiving day. (Turkey, barbecued ribs, 11 pies, two cakes.) She’d served the family. (Husband, friends, nieces, nephews.) And then she’d left to go shopping with Diana Thomas, home for the holiday from UNC-Pembroke.
“I already cooked and all,” she said at about 1:45 p.m., as she waited in line for J.C. Penney to open at 2. “I got two other stores to go to.”
Most popular item at Penney’s: an oil-free air fryer advertised in the store’s Thanksgiving circular. Brittany Mitchell of Rockingham bought two, alongside five crock pots and an electric skillet.
Latoya Leak of Hamlet went out Thursday, too, though she said she “can’t really afford it.” But, she added, holding a bed pillow and thumbing through colorful clothing, “when the prices are reduced like this …”
Every employee was on deck at Penney’s on Thursday afternoon, at regular and makeshift checkout stations.
The smell of pine
Workers at both the AMVETS and Lindsey’s Discount Tire tree lots stood around shooting the breeze most of the afternoon, waiting for things to pick up around dinnertime or, maybe, Saturday.
But at the back of Lindsey’s on Biltmore Drive, where trees are stripped of boughs to make wreaths, three women were hard at work, fashioning pungent circles of green.
Cindy Chavis picked and bound clusters of boughs from a red shopping cart as Alicia Cobos pounded away at her own work station, fastening boughs onto ready-made circles of metal. Outside, Maria Coll worked with her children to fashion a 24-inch beauty.
Such wreaths are in demand not only for Christmas but for the upcoming Advent season.
A late Thanksgiving
Katie Ingram worked the register at Big Lots for six hours Thursday, after a long night of cooking. When she’d finished cooking at 1 a.m., she said, her husband had his first dinner — “he said the kitchen smelled so good, he couldn’t resist.”
When Ingram got home at 8 p.m. Thursday, she said, her husband would be waiting for her. Then, they’d sit and sup together.
“I’m going home, put on my pj’s, bedroom slippers … and then I’m going to enjoy my Thanksgiving,” she said. “I put a lot of time and love in it.”
No dirty cars
Tay Johnson and friend Brandon Cox were at the 74 Car Wash midafternoon, prepping Johnson’s car for its trip to the family Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn’t that his relatives were judgmental, Johnson said, but he couldn’t show up with a dirty ride.
“You just don’t want to park beside somebody with a clean car” if yours isn’t clean, too, Johnson said.
Cox had his Thanksgiving at 8 a.m., he said — his family goes its separate ways on the holiday. So “hangin’ out” with Johnson was his socializing for the day.
One hand tooketh away as the other gaveth. At 4 p.m., Belk store manager Lonnie McIver gathered tickets from those who had stood in line outside as operations manager Robin Hutchinson handed out gift cards worth $5 to $1,000.
At one point, police had to move buyers farther into the store, so many stopped that they clogged the entrance. A chorus of dejected moans arose over $5 and $10 gift cards.
But Frannie Davis of Hamlet was happy. She’d won the thousand-dollar card promised for every Belk store.
“I started not to come today,” she said. But her cousin Jazmine Davis had waited in line for her, so she knew she had to go.
Only a few minutes after winning the thousand, Frannie Davis was maneuvering through the store, a shopping cart piled high with gifts for her 8-year-old daughter.
“She deserves it,” Davis said. “She’s a good kid.”
And on Thursday, she was a good kid with a lucky mother.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]