'Tis the season of joy — and dread. Thanksgiving, which once kicked off the holidays with family gathered around a groaning table loaded with turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and mincemeat pie, has been now inextricably linked to the beginning of Christmas shopping season.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, once a laid-back day of watching football, eating leftovers, and burping contentedly, has become "Black Friday," the day when serious holiday shopping kicks off — with early-bird sales, lines of shoppers, and traffic wrapped around mall parking lots. Then there's Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and God knows what else.
Just go buy something, will ya?
We here at Ye Olde Flyer have decided to offer some alternative thoughts on this new manifestation of American consumerism. In the stories that follow, you'll learn of some delightful (and delightfully uncrowded) shopping options. We'll let you know what the best local coffees are to sustain your shopping buzz. There's a Memphis music playlist; there are shopping suggestions for millennials, for your workout-obsessed pal, and for that geeky cousin who never comes out of the basement. There's art! It's a potpourri of ways to get through the weekend alive. And get your shopping done.
And, really, what else can you ask for? — Bruce VanWyngarden
The effective Black Friday shopper wakes up early in the morning. He or she will be alert and aggressive: mobile, agile, and hostile. Multiple cups of locally roasted coffee are strongly recommended — served black for the occasion, and the darker the bean the better. All of the Memphis-roasted coffees listed in this dirty half-dozen are guaranteed to get your motor started. They'd also make welcome gifts for the java junkies on your list.
Relevant Roasters' Italian Roast is a darkly cooked Nicaraguan bean that grinds to a chocolaty brown and tastes like a field of freshly torched hops mixed with chicory ash poured into a charred wooden barrel. It's one smoky brew and drinking it made my my face contort like I was reading a George Will op-ed or playing a scorching hot guitar solo. Recommended for aggressive shoppers who are unafraid of life's little penalty boxes.
If you don't believe in Darwin's theory of natural selection, a shot of Dr. Bean's El Salvador Roast will fix you right up. Dr. Bean's promises deep chocolate flavors that "evolve into apricot with a hint of wintergreen." And evolve they do. In the cup, El Salvador looks like molten caramel, and, without the aid of flavored syrups or additives of any kind, it does everything the good doctor said it would. This is a deceptively complex and satisfying cup of joe, and it kicks like Giorgio Petrosyan in a title fight.
Aroma is everything, and J. Brooks' Old Country Espresso smells like a Roman cafe. Rich and sturdy, with a mahogany crema and a woody finish. It's exactly everything you want from a shot of espresso and even better with a shot of grappa, as long as somebody else is driving. Recommended for shoppers who like to start the day with a shot of grappa. You know who you are.
A freshly ground bowl of Relevant Roasters' Kimel Estate Papua New Guinea looks as rich and fertile as worm dirt. The packaging says this toasty bean dust should taste of molasses, apples, and tobacco. I don't know about all that, but it sure would taste great with an unfiltered Lucky Strike or two. Or with a platter of country ham, home fries, and pancakes. Relevant Roasters ranks this supercharged diner brew four out of five on the darkness scale, but it's light-bodied in the cup.
Bootleg is J. Brooks' darkest roast. It comes out of the automatic drip coffeemaker tasting like it was just poured from some metal pot freshly lifted from a fruit-wood fire. It's intensely smoky without tasting burned or bitter. Consume with chocolate for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Recommended for shoppers who'll spend Black Friday in places that smell of leather and lumber.
Reverb Coffee Company's Tanzania Peaberry coffee is a milder-smelling brew than you might expect from beans so jet black and oily. In the cup it's a dark, chestnut red, light-bodied but full-flavored. It's strong stuff without being acidic or aggressive: the kind of almondy, good coffee that makes you say, "Now that's a damn fine cup of coffee." Recommended for unhurried shoppers who are more interested in enjoying a day out than being first in line. — Chris Davis
Love Starbucks but hate that communist red cup? Show your politics in your shopping cart this Black Friday with some apps that will tell you if the products you buy (or the companies that sell them to you) are Christian, gay-loving, Democrat, or Republican.
• Faith Driven Consumer app
Here's what you do about that red cup: Go to Dunkin' Donuts.
That's according to Faith Driven Consumer, the Raleigh, North Carolina, Christian group that has measured 330 brands' "faith compatibility" for Christian consumers. The group says Christians will wield $30 billion in buying power this holiday shopping season and Faith Driven Consumer launched its #ChristmasBUYcott campaign to channel that money to the most "faith-compatible brands."
Starbucks and its red cups are out, according to the group. Dunkin' Donuts and its "Joy" cups are in.
And so on.
Here's a select list from the Faith Driven Consumer "Best in Class": Hobby Lobby, Pepsi, Cracker Barrel, Walgreens, Sprint, JetBlue, and Chick-fil-A.
Just in time for the holidays, Faith Driven Consumer has packaged its list in an app for Apple and Android platforms. Users can check the database to make a battle plan before they shop, or they can check the list on the go in the Black Friday mayhem.
•Human Rights Campaign's Buy4Equality app:
Want to make sure the company you buy from treats their gay and transgendered employees with equality in the workplace? Download Buy4Equality, an app that mobilizes the Human Rights Campaign's annual "Buying for Workplace Equality" list. The list ranks brands on everything from whether or not they offer benefits to domestic partners to extending workplace protections to transgendered workers.
Here's a list of companies with perfect or near-perfect scores from the Human Rights Campaign: CVS, Bath & Body Works, Macy's, Costco, Target, Coca-Cola, and Walt Disney Co.
• BuyPartisan app:
Is that big-ass TV you're about to take home a Democrat or a Republican?
Scan it with your phone, and you can know in an instant, thanks to the BuyPartisan app from a D.C. tech start-up called Spend Consciously. The app matches the product to an constantly updated database that shows the political contributions made by the company's board of directors, CEO, political action committee, and employees.
BuyPartisan also allows you to track a company's spending and to compare the spending of two different companies. If a product doesn't show up, you can manually search the app's database. — Toby Sells
It is an undeniable fact that artists contribute as much to community vibrancy as do bike lanes or locally sourced food. The challenge is keeping those artists in our community, and the way you do that is by supporting them. Not through the plague of art auctions that have beset our town, where organizations ask artists to donate their merchandise for free and the artists get nothing except "exposure." Support them by buying their products, just as you would a car or produce. What better opportunity to help keep Memphis wild and wonderful than to purchase work by local artists sold at local independent shops on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday? Here's a roundup of some (keyword "some") of the local shops selling local art.
You could spend an entire day walking Broad and popping into the varied embodiments of curated arts and crafts. City & State's name is indicative of their mission. They sell the increasingly celebrated pottery by Brit McDaniel (Paper and Clay) and jewelry by the actively followed Question the Answer (Lauren Carlson) as well as by the purpose-driven business Ekata Designs, which helps refugee women in Memphis, and refurbished watches constructed by the old soul Colin Britton of Memphis Mean Time. Some of these lines will be included in the shop's (which also serves as a craft coffee house) special edition Holiday Boxes of Awesome gift boxes. Saunter down a block to Falling Into Place. Everything is hand-picked by the owner Mary Claire White — yes, the maker of those ambrosial candles. Almost everything is art here and probably a third, if not more, local.
Can we all just say we all love Maggie Russell's art. I remember the first time I saw it (on Facebook). I had to shut down my computer and breathe. White carries Russell originals as well as her cleverly inscribed prints and cards. She has abstract landscapes by Hillary Butler, florals by Amy Hartelust, including ornaments, dog paintings by Melanie Anderson, and more. I was thoroughly impressed with the cut-paper pieces by Cassie Weigman, including her map of Memphis.
One more block, and you have Bingham & Broad, which offers furniture, art, housewares, and accessories by 60 artists, 80 percent of which is locally crafted. Several of the artists work with humanitarian groups. A Way Out offers assistance to those involved in sex trafficking, and Peace of Thread sells accessories made by refugee women. And if you're a big fan of found-object artist Kenny Hays, like I am, he now makes lamps, which are sold here.
It's pretty much impossible to overlook Five in One. It's a treasure trove of locally made art, including the most authentic Memphis T-shirts in Memphis, designed and printed by co-owner Michael Andrews. I send tourists there so that they can spread the Memphis gospel one T-shirt at a time. Baby Creep jewelry (I am powerless over her awesomeness), coloring books by Birdcap (Michael Roy) and Jenean Morrison, Astrid French's jewelry, fairy-tale plaques by Michelle Duckworth, and food jewelry by Funlola Coker.
Museum shops are the best, aren't they? The Brooks Museum offers jewelry by Lisa Butts, Kaye Brooksbank, Yuki Maguire (if you've ever wanted origami jewelry, now you know), Estelle Hood, Frances Cianciolo (Ancia), and Shove It (the skateboard people) and pottery by Agnes Stark, Baucum Pottery, David Johnson, and raku by Lester Jones.
Cooper-Young's Me & Mrs. Jones, which has a second store in Germantown, offers Melissa Bridgman's enchanting pottery and hand-lettered prints by Meriweather Adams (Hand Lettered With Love).
Diane Laurenzi, of Diane's Art Gift & Home, has been selling local art-ware before millennials were a thing. She's got metallic photos, pottery, hand-painted silks, and pottery you can use or hang on your wall by Niles Wallace.
South Main is becoming the new Broad. Wait, what? Stock & Belle, who's watchword is "intentional," focuses on local art, including paintings by Sarah Best Johnson and everyone's favorite Grizzlies artist, the fountainhead of BIG SPAIN, Kyle Taylor. For more of his genius, head around the corner to Hoot + Louise for this year's Grizz tee (a dream catcher) and reprints of last year's Wear the Bear, and you can find prints by that Instagrammer @mississippipetrichor (ahem, ahem).
Two other museum shops that must be included are the 477 store in the MCA Nesin Graduate School, which sells work by MCA alums, students, faculty, and staff. Can we say Kong Wee Pang, Annabelle Meacham, Horse and Hare, and Lance Turner? And the Metal Museum store. I stop in there just about every Christmas. This year I think I might pick up some ornaments by Susan Younger and Jeannie Tomlinson Saltmarsh (the baby-head artist).
Now that you have my Christmas list, you can find me at the Flyer Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Just drop them off at the front desk. — Lesley Young
Lesouque founders Gokben Yamandag and Penelope Fisher launched their online store of ethically made homewares and fashion last summer, introducing up-and-coming designers to consumers around the globe. As are most retailers, they are now promoting the start of the holiday shopping season, but in a different way: They are encouraging consumers to "Break Up With Black Friday."
"Think about the madness of Black Friday, where you will probably buy things you might not need. The holidays are about family. Breaking up with Black Friday is saying, 'stop and take a breather,'" Fisher explained.
This mini-campaign is an expansion of the pair's main goal: educating consumers on the hidden costs of the items they buy. The Lesouque site features tips on how to be a conscious consumer, along with eye-opening facts on manufacturing. They encourage their customers to use the hashtag #BlackFridayBreakUp.
Yamandag has witnessed firsthand how the high demand for inexpensive and mass-produced goods can impact the well-being of people. Working as a textile engineer in Turkey, Yamandag saw the harsh conditions in apparel factories.
Lesouque sells handbags, scarves, mugs, platters, jewelry, and more made by artists and designers from around the world. There are three Memphis artists as well: Brit McDaniel; Melissa Bridgman; and Kong Wee Pang.
"The fun of it is helping to market small and up-and-coming designers, some with no other place to sell, like designers from Istanbul. We build connections and relationships and have become friends with most of them. Everyone works for the same goal," Yamandag said.
"We focus on the designers and the makers who treat their employees fairly. [Plus, the items] are all things we love," said Fisher. — Sophorn Kuoy
Supporting black-owned businesses is essential to the economic growth of Memphis. There are thousands of black businesses providing various services here — some online and some with storefronts. I've pulled 10 dynamic businesses from Power Box, an intensive black business directory that I launched this summer. Support these homegrown entrepreneurs plus 900 others listed on Power Box this Black Friday and beyond, moving the needle on economic equality and empowerment.
• Phillip Ashley Chocolates offers gourmet chocolates with a twist, concocted and crafted in the heart of Midtown by Memphis' own Willy Wonka, Phillip Ashley Rix. Tami's Favorite: Posh Pralines Collection.
798 S. Cooper, phillipashleychocolates.com
• Guilt Free Pastries is a 100 percent natural and vegan alternative for healthy shoppers with a sweet tooth. Tami's Favorite: Avocado Brownies. 344 S. Main,
• Bubble Bistro founder Andrea Johnson fills her bath and body products with love and fun. Visit the Crosstown location for the full experience. Tami's Favorite: Power Body Oil. 425 N. Watkins, bubblebistro.com
• The Candle Bakery's hand-poured candles not only smell amazing but they are presented in the shape of your favorite desserts. Tami's favorite: Vanilla Buttercream Cupcake candle. 2838 Hickory Hill Ext., Suite 11, thecandlebakery.com
• Sheila Jay Designs is owned by local designer Sheila Jay. This collection features fly clothing for the everyday woman. Tami's favorite: Ankara Real Wax Blazer. Online only at sheilajay.com
• Quistt is full of exciting accessories to jazz up your wardrobe. Tami's Favorite: Ankara rope necklace. Online only at etsy.com/shop/Quistt
• Mo's Bows was founded by young entrepreneur, Moziah Bridges. Mo's Bows is a source of Memphis pride for its success and style. Tami's Favorite: the bold Orange Gingham bowtie. Online only at mosbowsmemphis.com
• Beautiful Monster is a soulful T-shirt line with numerous nods to African-American history and culture. Tami's Favorite: Brown v. Board of Education. Online only at
• New Tribe New Traditions designs apparel for the African-American naturalista (natural hair wearer). Tami's favorite: gold on black Afro glitter tee. online only at
• MANE captures a classic in Memphis lingo perfectly with this quality apparel line. Tami's Favorite: pink MANE hoodie. Online only at manetshirts.com — Tami Sawyer
Insane lines, insane prices, and insane people can only mean one thing: Black Friday is upon us. Take this playlist of 10 songs by Memphis (or Memphis-related) artists with you as you hit the front lines of the Apocalypse, I mean, Black Friday.
• John Gary Williams "The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy" (Stax Records)
John Gary Williams might not have been singing about Black Friday when he sang "I believe that the whole damn world is going crazy," but it certainly applies to this unofficial American holiday. Slam some coffee, and prepare for the worst, because anyone who goes out in the middle of the night to go shopping must be crazy.
• Useless Eaters "Panic Attack" (Tic Tac Totally Records)
Some people might set alarms to make sure they are the first in line for that $400 flat-screen TV. I recommend not sleeping at all. Remember Black Friday only comes once a year. Don't mess this up and have a panic attack.
•The Sweet Inspirations "Slipped and Tripped" (Stax Records)
And don't be the person who ends up on the local news after trampling someone on their way into Walmart. Nothing puts a damper on the holiday spirit quite like a lawsuit, so take it down a notch when the gates of retail hell finally open. Nose position is everything.
• New Memphis Legs "You Won't Get Me" (Goner Records)
Everyone knows the speed limit is more of a guideline than a rule on Black Friday. Blast this relatively unknown jammer by a Memphis garage band of yesteryear while you accelerate over shopping-mall speed bumps en route to the next super-sale.
• Rufus Thomas "I'll be Your Santa Baby" (Stax Records)
You've made it through the first round of shopping, but you still have miles to go before you sleep, so let Uncle Rufus cheer you up. Get in the zone; it's time to blow some money.
• Three 6 Mafia "All or Nothin" (Prophet Entertainment)
Your car is filling up with all kinds of stuff, half of which you didn't even plan on buying. Don't look in the trunk, and by all means don't look at your bank account. You have to buy it all, or nothing at all.
• Lost Sounds "Don't Bother Me"
(Big Neck Records)
By now the masses of fellow shoppers are probably starting to get on your nerves. Instead of going into a full-blown, coffee-induced rampage, take a deep breath, and let Alicja Trout do the screaming for you.
• Playa Fly "Situation Critical"
(Super Sigg Records)
This is pretty self-explanatory. The shopping situation has reached critical mass. Either you got the deals you wanted, or you were left out in the cold. Don't be the one (as Playa Fly so eloquently puts it) "lookin' pitiful."
• Little Milton "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" (Stax Records)
Fear is setting in. Did you remember to hit all the places you wanted to? Surely you missed at least one sale. Dry your eyes with a Best Buy receipt and let Little Milton take the wheel.
• The Oblivians "Pill Popper"
(In the Red Records)
By now you've hopefully navigated through the trenches and made it back home. Take some aspirin and remember, this is only the beginning of your Christmas shopping experience. Happy holidaze! — Chris Shaw
National outdoors outfitter REI made headlines when its CEO Jerry Stritzke announced the company would be closed on Black Friday. They're actually paying their 12,000 employees to take Black Friday off and go hiking or something.
"Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected, and complete when you choose to spend it outside," Stritzke has said.
Maybe he's on to something. We've compiled a list of alternatives to shopping on Black Friday. Not all of them are outside or even during typical, early-bird-sale shopping hours. But hey, maybe reminding ourselves of essential life truths is less about being outside and more about sleeping in and sipping martinis.
25-cent Martinis at Felicia Suzanne's
Every Friday at lunchtime, this upscale Southern eatery serves vodka and/or gin martinis for a quarter. That's less than what you'll pay the meter to park when you get there. Diners are limited to three (party poopers), and purchase of a meal is required if you want the discount.
South Main Art Trolley Tour
From 6 to 9 p.m. on the last Friday of each month, shops along South Main feature local art shows. And you can catch a free ride on one of those new buses that look like trolleys. Hey, you might even find a few works of art for the folks on your holiday list.
The annual drive-through, holiday light show in Shelby Farms Park features 1.5 million lights, and this year, the park is unveiling a new theme showcasing iconic Memphis places. The show is open nightly, but on Black Friday, the hours are 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 per car, truck, or minivan.
Memphis Improv & Sketch Collective
On the last Friday of every month from 8 to 9:30 p.m., a collective of Memphis' funniest people gather at Midtown Crossing Grill to present an evening of improv comedy. There's typically a special-guest comedian. And the cover is only a suggested donation of $5. Grab some pizza or the vegan Bianca Banh Mi (shameless plug) for dinner while you're there.
Black Friday Movie Day
Classic seasonal films screen all day at the Rec Room. Catch Die Hard, Edward Scissorhands, Gremlins, Lethal Weapon, and others. Bar opens at noon.
North Mississippi Allstars
The Hernando-based blues rockers play a Black Friday show with Grammy-winning bluegrass musician Jim Lauderdale and the South Memphis Allstars at Minglewood Hall at 7 p.m. — Bianca Phillips
Those of us in the millennial generation wish you a very thrifty Christmas. We are harnessing a combination of sales, shopping apps, second-hand stores, and old-fashioned craftiness to cover our gift-giving needs. Here are three resourceful young folks willing to share their secrets.
• Kristin Jonakin
Gifting: Her two kids, plus a large number of nieces and nephews, more than she could recall. Tricks of the trade: Target, the shopping app called Cartwheel, and manufacturers' coupons.
"I shop early; I don't wait until December," Jonakin said. "I'm an avid Target shopper, and they price-match Amazon and Walmart. They also have an app called Cartwheel, and November through Christmas they will feature one toy that's 50 percent off. So, combine that app with Target coupons and manufacturers' coupons, and you'll get toys that are normally $40 for $15 or $20."
Jonakin is no ordinary couponer. She activates push notifications from savings apps, keeps a watchful eye on upcoming sales, and organizes her entire gift-giving duties on Excel spreadsheets.
• Amber Smith Hampton
Gifting: Mainly her two kids.
Tricks of the Trade: Thrift stores, touch-up paint, pragmatic views on gift-giving.
"One year, Audrey wanted a bike, and we didn't have the money for a new bike, so I grabbed one at Goodwill for $16. It had some paint missing, so part of the present was packing up some art supplies to go with it, and we gave it to her as a 'Decorate Your Own Bike' present. She loved it," Hampton said.
Like Jonakin, Hampton also encourages shopping in the months preceding the holiday season. And Hampton is a fan of thrift stores.
"My big advice is to realize that kids will be excited about anything. Most of them won't realize or care whether or not something is brand new, because it's new to them. So, don't skip over the second-hand stores, because there's a ton of good stuff out there for mega-cheap."
• Clark McGee
Gifting: An intimidating number of coworkers and acquaintances.
Tricks of the trade: Cheap booze, ingenuity, and patience.
McGee is the coworker you want to have, because you will be rewarded with a four-serving cocktail starter kit, or even a bottle of infused vodka.
"You don't necessarily have to buy expensive vodka, because you're altering the actual flavor of the vodka," said McGee, who has lately been fielding requests for his homemade limoncello. "All limoncello is, is lemon zest and vodka. You let that sit for a month, and then add an equal amount of simple syrup. So, your one handle of vodka is now two handles of limoncello, and you'll have enough to fill 10 Mason jars, and this runs you about $60."
McGee's messiah-like ability to make two handles of alcohol out of one means he can get almost a dozen gifts for $60. For closer friends and those who don't drink, McGee advises watching for the annual sales at Michaels, stocking up on acrylic paints and canvases, and getting crafty with select smarmy quotes made into art-installations with light-up capabilities. — Micaela Watts
The Self-Denying Mother: This woman is always giving up sugar, and, when you ask her what she wants, she tells you that she "wants to want less." She routinely suggests that you donate to charity instead of getting her a present. The problem is that you need something to put inside wrapping paper. So you should pull the old "stand-in present" trick, i.e. donate to a charity that helps save Bengal tigers and draw her a picture of a happy-looking tiger to put under the tree. Or donate to a charity that fights world hunger and get her a felted throw pillow in the shape of a carrot (OK, maybe not.) But you get the picture.
The Extended Family Member Who Has Everything (and always gets you a present): This one is the worst, because it is nearly impossible to successfully gift someone who is in the habit of purchasing everything they could ever want. And they always get you exactly the thing that you want, that you might have mentioned once, in passing, way back in July. You will never win this game. The answer here is that everyone, no matter who they are and what sort of success they have had in their life, always needs a nice pair of gloves.
The Cousin Whose Hobbies You Don't Endorse: This cousin is a member of his local citizen militia and all he loves in this world are guns and duck calls. Let's say that you are a vegetarian pacifist and don't know your way around a Bass Pro to save your life. You have to bank on the great unifiers of our time: alcohol, artisanal condiments, or fuzzy blankets. Maybe just go with a combo of all three.
The Rare Media Collector: You can't buy this person what they really want, because what they really want is either ungodly expensive or impossible to find. You don't have the energy or finances to find an original pressing of that one Talking Heads record or an author-signed first edition of "The Parisian Omnibus" or whatever. The goal here is to go for unique storage furniture in which the collector can keep their goods. A stylish book bag or an archival baseball card organizer.
The Teenage Boy Whose Only Interest Is World of Warcraft: Just get this guy a Fushigi ball. Everybody loves Fushigi balls. Or a balance board. Those are all the rage. — Eileen Townsend