BY EMILY MONACELLI AND JOSH WEINHOLD
ELKHART â” The storm is brewing.
Stores are preparing for an onslaught of customers on Black Friday, the massive shopping event the day after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, shoppers are scouting in advance for the best sales. And restaurants are readying food for the hungry masses.
Nathan Banchik, general manager of Menards, 601 E. Windsor Ave., said he and his employees are ready for a line when the store opens at 6 a.m. Friday for its five-hour sale. Hot items there this year include TVs, tools, toys and electronics. The store also sells plenty of pet beds and pet toys.
He said employees would be there late Wednesday to ready the store for the Friday morning rush. Many employees will be there first thing Friday, too.
"It's pretty much all hands on deck," he said. "This is certainly a day we need all help available."
At an IHOP restaurant on Ferndale Road, near a slew of stores on U.S. 33 in Dunlap, 10 extra staff members will be working Friday.
The restaurant opens two hours early -- at 4 a.m. instead of the usual 6 a.m. -- and it will need four additional servers, two more bussers and four added cooks to handle the crowd.
"It is pretty overwhelming," said general manager Donna Murphy. "But we make sure that we're staffed for it.
Business was very good last year, she said, the first time the restaurant opened early on Black Friday. Sales tend to be higher than on most weekend days, with customer flow picking up about 4:45 a.m.
LaVerda Yoder of Goshen plans to venture out for the first time in many years this Friday to fight the crowds and snag some deals. She sees the shopping day as a way to spend time with her friends while saving money on holiday shopping.
"I have a good job but in this kind of year it slows down. Pay is lower. This is the way to get some of the items I really want or want to get for gifts," she said.
She admits she and friend Adel Weltz don't have much of a strategy. Weltz had planned to scope out Target on Wednesday night to see the store's layout and find where her coveted flat-screen TV would be. Then, Friday morning, "Pretty much the only strategy we have is to run in and get it," Yoder said.
Target will be the pair's first stop, and then they will head to Walmart. Yoder hopes to grab an inexpensive Blu-ray player and some movies there.
"I'm a movie fanatic and I know Walmart will have some for very cheap," she said.