Flagstaff is an outdoor town, there are no two ways about it. It’s not hard to find the gear you need for five days in the Grand Canyon or a hike up Mount Elden. Round a corner downtown and you’ll find two outdoor suppliers in one view; drive from Butler Avenue down Milton Road and you will pass at least three shops dedicated to the great outdoors.
But as far as local dedication to Black Friday? That depends on which Flagstaff stores you visit.
Though the frenzy of people tripping over one another for a TV or camping out in the freezing cold come to mind when you think of shopping, many of Flagstaff's local outdoor retailers are taking a more laissez-faire approach this Friday. Some shops will participate, while for others the day will be toned down -- purposefully so. From opting into Black Friday to opting out, local participation depends on the shop.
“This year we have some promotions we’re doing -- for example, bringing one item back to 1980 prices,” said Steve Chatinsky, who owns Peace Surplus. The business opened in 1973 and was run by Chatinsky’s father, Al, until he passed it along to his son. Local is etched into the store's foundation but still, Peace Surplus has participated in Black Friday for about 20 years now, according to Chatinsky. In addition to bringing their staff from the usual four employees up to six for Black Friday, the shop will have up to 60 percent off various items.
“We’re doing quite a few things to get people excited...they go to the mall first thing in the morning for the electronics these days. After they go and get those super deals, they tend to cruise around downtown and we have our own parking, which is great," Chatinsky said.
Four Season Outfitters, tucked into a small shopping plaza on Milton Road, plans to “go big this year,” according to owner Mike Lapsley.
Every item in the shop will be 25 percent off with some discounts as high as 90 percent — all deals that Lapsley’s windows have been showcasing for a couple weeks now.
This won’t be Four Season's first Black Friday, he added, but it will be one of the more significant ones.
“We always mix it up, do something kind of creative every year. This year we’re going big. We’re hoping everybody comes and drops local for the holidays,” Lapsley said.
The sentiment in other downtown and local shops was more muted.
“We’re going to have decorations, of course, and we always have a discount,” said Dave Barnett, manager at Aspen Sports on San Francisco Street. “We’re not upping staff, though. Parking has taken its toll and it did last year somewhat,” he added, referencing the ParkFlag meters that were rolled out shortly before last year’s largest shopping day.
Mountain Sports, which is located catty-corner to Aspen Sports, will have mimosas, apple cider and cookies, said Brittany Montague, the store's general manager, adding that they try not to focus all their efforts simply on Black Friday.
“Downtown isn’t a doorbuster location. Instead, we offer an experience. We have our sale section that rotates through sales, but no major specials,” she said.
Similarly, Humphrey Summit Ski will have discounts at its "White Friday" event.
"All of our gear from last year is gonna be a big blowout. We're trying to get people in here, but we're more just excited about the start of the season," said Riley Weathers, general manager at the outdoor and rental shop. "But what we’re going for is rather than it being about material things, being with friends and family is really what it’s all about."
Mick Ohly, who owns Snow Mountain River, which opened off of Milton Road a little over a year ago, said he will be closing his shop on Black Friday.
“You should go enjoy the outdoors," he said.
National outdoor retailers in Flagstaff are going the opposite direction -- in keeping with corporate instruction. Save for REI, whose corporate policy is "opt outside" (a policy in which employees are paid to take the day off) national outdoors suppliers are preparing for an onslaught of customers.
Terry Woliver, office manager at Sportsman's Warehouse, and Cheyenne Keefer, general manager at Big 5 Sporting Goods, are gearing up to open their doors at 6 a.m. and 5 a.m., respectively.
"We're anticipating long lines," Woliver said.
Jesse Watkins III, 70, has pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted molestation of a child and will be sentenced on Tuesday.
The Glendale man went out of his way to get close to the victim, and eventually spent nights at the family home where the alleged touching took place. The two charges against Watkins could place him behind bars for 5 to 30 years and includes the possibility of lifetime probation as a sex offender. Watkins was originally charged with three counts of child molestation, but pleaded down to the charges in the agreement.
Watkins was denied release before his trial. Due to the nature of the charges, state prosecutor Michael Tunink argued he was a danger to children in the community.
“Rather than being crimes of access and opportunity, the defendant’s abuse of the victim here was through opportunity he created through grooming and manipulation,” Tunink said.
After meeting the teenage victim while volunteering at an "at-risk" high school in the state, he gave the parents financial help and gifts for their children to get close to them, according to documents filed by the state. More than one of the gifts Watkins gave, the state explained, were directly to the victim.
The charged molestation attempts took place on two separate occasions within the month of January and the victim’s spring break this year. He spent the night at the family’s home, where the touching took place. On one occasion Watkins touched the victim in the same room as the victim's sleeping sibling, according to the state documents.
The incident was reported to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office when one of the victim’s siblings overheard the victim discussing the incident to friends and told an older sister, who reported it to the agency.
The alleged touching was confirmed by Watkins in a confrontation call from the victim with detectives on the line, when he stated he was trying to help the victim “understand [her] body a little bit,” according to state documents. At first Watkins denied his actions to police, but admitted to them after being confronted about the call.
He attributed his behavior to being single and living alone, according to state documents.
In a pre-sentencing report, Watkins acknowledged that he is responsible for the charges.
"I want to apologize to the court and to the victim," Watkins said. "I am really sorrowful for causing any issues for the victim and her family."
The same report details that the victim's sibling and mother will make a statement at sentencing.
Prosecution declined to comment, while defense attorney Bruce Griffen could not be reached in time for the article.
With last week’s approval of Propositions 423 and 424, providing a $75 million bond and 15 percent property tax renewal, Flagstaff Unified School District will prioritize its plans before moving forward with the projects authorized by this newfound funding.
“We’re humbled and appreciative of all the support we’ve received from our families, our communities,” said FUSD Superintendent Michael Penca. “Every day we see all kinds of support for our schools…[but] this was above and beyond.”
The two propositions passed with 60 and 63 percent yes votes, respectively. Penca attributes some of the support to this year’s statewide Red for Ed movement, which he says increased awareness in educational funding throughout the state, including in northern Arizona.
“We appreciate the investment and the trust that our community has demonstrated in this election and we’re excited to get to work,” he added.
Although significant prework was put into these proposals already, the district intends to collaborate with the school board and Bond Oversight Committee before diving into any major projects. Many of the district’s specific plans, like the elementary school that will be replaced, are to be decided at upcoming prioritization meetings with these two groups in late November and December.
These meetings will establish the timeline for the approved renovation projects. Penca expects securing permits, bidding on the work to be completed and starting to sell bonds will all occur early next year, with the most time-sensitive project — the renovations to Mount Elden Middle School — beginning summer 2019 at the earliest, followed by the implementation of the one-to-one technology initiative (one device for each student) for the upcoming school year.
Replacement of an entire elementary school is a major undertaking that is not scheduled to begin for at least another year. In the H2 Group’s investigation of FUSD properties earlier this year, Kinsey and Killip Elementary Schools, two of the district’s oldest buildings, were recommended for full replacement, a more cost-effective approach than renovation -- $36.2 million for a new building rather than $9.5 million in renovations to last only a few years.
Prior to determining the location of a new school, the district will conduct demographic studies to evaluate its long-term needs. These results will determine if the new school will be placed on its own plot of land or on the replaced school’s existing property.
“[We are] trying to project where our long-term needs are so that we’re prepared to support where growth is happening,” Penca said. “At those oldest sites, there is room to replace the school on the property…we just have to determine if that best meets the needs.”
The decision was also stalled by other city propositions on last week’s ballots, especially those related to transportation. Penca said such decisions can have an effect on the school community and, consequently, the placement of a new school.
“Those are discussions that can be had now that the elections are over and the results are in,” he said.
Throughout the implementation of FUSD’s plans, Penca says the goal is to minimize the tax impact on local property owners. To do so, the district will work closely with a financial adviser to sell bonds appropriately, possibly in multiple chunks.
“January and February are really firm with projects and timelines and to start selling the bonds…and then we start working the plan,” Penca said.