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Local merchants offer a plaid alternative to Black Friday's retail rush

Union Leader Correspondent

November 21. 2012 10:45PM

Walpole Valley Farm owners Chris and Caitlin Caserta with their children Sam and Henry plan to be a Plaid Friday Hub again this year, offering samples of their beef and other farm products. (Courtesy)

Sleep in, then dress in plaid and visit your local shops for your holiday purchases.

From the Seacoast to the Monadnock region, Plaid Friday, a grassroots movement aimed at encouraging New Hampshire residents to patronize local establishments, is back again this year.

Jim Therriault, owner of New England Everyday Goods in Peterborough, participated in Plaid Friday for the first time last year.

"We had a phenomenal day," he said.

This year Therriault is hoping for a similar turnout. "Sleep in, enjoy the day. Don't stand outside in the rain at 2 a.m. Go to the stores when they normally open and have a civilized shopping experience," he said.

David Boynton, executive director of Seacoast Local, said Hampton, Portsmouth, Exeter, Somersworth and Dover are among the communities participating in Plaid Friday.

"We really started growing it last year," now hundreds of businesses across the Seacoast are involved," he said.

Shoppers can expect discounts and special offers, he said. "But really what they can expect is finding unique gifts and to have a better shopping experience ... It's just a really fun alternative. It's a colorful alternative to Black Friday."

'Shift Your Shopping'

Plaid Friday is also part of the "Shift Your Shopping" campaign, Boynton said.

The national effort involving more than 150 local business alliances represents over 38,000 locally owned businesses, according to Jennifer Risley, co-chairman of Keene-based Monadnock Buy Local.

The campaign asks people to shift 10 percent or more of what they would normally spend on holiday gifts to locally owned businesses and organizations.

Dover Main Street, the Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce and Seacoast Local have partnered with local businesses to bring back Santa's Workshop, a local holiday tradition that had faded away.

Santa's Workshop is to open at 9 a.m. Friday in Mill Court with the arrival of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus accompanied by the Dover Mounted Police, all decked out in plaid. Even the horses will be wearing plaid, Boynton said.

Hot cocoa from Kelley's Row Restaurant and Cellar Pub is to be served. Holiday music and photos with Santa are planned.

"It's really going to be an awesome kick-off to a big party downtown," Boynton said.

Kelley's Row General Manager Kim Arkwell is a longtime Dover resident.

"We're really into shopping local. We're really into that spirit in Dover, so there's been a lot of participation," she said.

West Coast origins

Plaid Friday was born on the West Coast four years ago when gallery owner Kerri Johnson of Oakland, Calif., was brainstorming with friends and other business owners about what small retailers could do on Black Friday, other than close for the day.

The idea soon found a home in New Hampshire. Risley said Monadnock Buy Local quickly got on board.

"There's definitely more buzz going around, this year," Risley said. "People are more aware."

American Express and many area cities, including Manchester and Concord, promote a Small Business Saturday or "shop small" program, which encourages shoppers to shop at local stores the day after Black Friday, Risley said.

Even Cyber Monday can have a local connection. Some independently owned stores have websites that fill orders. The Toadstool Bookshop, which has stores in Keene, Peterborough and Milford, is an example.

"We have a great bookshop that has three locations and a lot of people don't realize they have a website," Risley said.

Each year more and more businesses that are part of the Monadnock Buy Local organization are participating and hosting "Plaid Friday Hubs," she said.

These businesses host a festive celebration of Plaid Friday; the shop keepers wear plaid and serve refreshments and give out samples. If customers come in wearing plaid, they get their picture taken, Risley said.

"It's more than buying a gift for a loved one. It's sending a gift to your community, cause so much happens when you circulate that money locally," she said.

For a complete list of stores, events and promotions within the Monadnock Buy Local network go to

Building on it

This is Concord Be Local's second year participating in Plaid Friday, according to Michelle Lienhart, owner of Concord boutique Just Be and a member of the Be Local committee.

"It's starting to spread and I think the more we get the awareness out there, I think every year we are going to just build on it," she said.

Local businesses are the backbone of any community, Lienhart said, noting small businesses provide approximately 75 percent of new jobs to the economy.

"You don't have to go to a big-box store. You can get great things for everybody on your list on Main Street," Lienhart said. "Our goal is for the independent businesses to take back the day after Thanksgiving. No need to stand in those long lines at big-box stores. Come on and shop leisurely instead."

The Belknap Independent Business Alliance is also promoting Plaid Friday this year.

Member Randy Bullerwell, owner of All My Life Jeweler in Laconia, said Plaid Friday is about consumer awareness and community preservation.

"Plaid Friday is to encourage that thinking of the local independent business first is probably the best thing they can do to affect their local economy," he said.

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Meghan Pierce may be reached at

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