In the hours following Thanksgiving dinner — when throngs of sale-hungry shoppers descend on big-box stores at ungodly hours of the morning in a mad dash to capitalize on various Black Friday sales — there's another contingent of buyers who will be fast asleep, slowly digesting their dinners and maybe even dreaming up what outfits they'll wear the next morning. And if they're part of the growing number of shoppers making a concerted effort to patronize small local businesses, there's a good chance they'll be wearing plaid.
While it's true that tartan attire is making something of a comeback (you may have noticed the resurgence of flannel in recent years), donning plaid the day after Thanksgiving is beginning to represent more than just a fashion statement. It's also the official garb of followers of Plaid Friday — a sort of Black Friday antithesis by which independent businesses hold sales, parties, and other incentives for people to casually peruse their shops in lieu of cramming into notoriously crowded chain stores. As Plaid Friday founder Kerri Johnson summarized it, "Instead of waking up at 4 a.m. to go and stand in a line, you can wake up at noon, get some coffee, wander around and find out who your local business people are." She said the plaid element is a nod to the colorful mishmash that results when the diverse types of existing small businesses join forces. Plus, she said, "Everyone has plaid for whatever reason — and people like to bust it out."
What Johnson initiated in 2009 as a fun way to stimulate small businesses in Oakland and the greater East Bay has grown into a national affair, with shop owners from Colorado to Massachusetts placing plaid placards in their storefronts to signal their participation, and plaid-clad shoppers in turn showing their support. Last year, the entrepreneur was profiled on NPR's Boston-based Here & Now podcast; this year, with help from various "shop local" campaigns, the modestly conceived operation is becoming an increasingly cohesive movement. "I think the first year it was really just a novelty," Johnson said. "But I think people's ideas about supporting local, especially in the last six months, really just solidified."
In the East Bay, where this year at least fifty businesses, from bars to book stores, are holding formal Plaid Friday sales and celebrations on Friday, November 25, some small businesses owners said they've noticed the shift. Jen Komaromi, owner of the boutique Jenny K. (6927 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito), which is offering plaid-wearers $5 off purchases of $25 or more for the occasion, said post-Turkey Day weekends were a slow time for her shop until two or three years ago. Julie Harleman, a manager at denim shop Slash (2840 College Ave., Berkeley), a store that has participated in Plaid Friday since its inception and this year is giving away free cookies and a storewide 10 percent discount, echoed Komaromi's observation. "Since Plaid Friday started, we have started to see a lot more people shopping here on that day," she said. "I think more people are aware of where their money is going, and that supporting small, independent, locally owned businesses really matters." Visit PlaidFriday.com for a list of participating businesses and their offerings.