Thinking big about Black Friday, Zach Powers let a few anti-megacorp rants cycle through his brain.
You know, the brawls that break out when giant retailers advertise smashing deals on electronics and games to generate “excitement,” then deliberately understock the goods, and then send forth PR people who say they are shocked, shocked, that customers fought over the loot. Every year.
You know, the mega-merchants that open so early, if they close at all, that a family Thanksgiving is but a fading dream to their employees.
You know, the media turning Thanksgiving weekend into an indicator of whether we're doing our civic duty by buying enough stuff to support the economy.
Then Powers thought small.
He thought about Tacoma's gutsy buy-local movement, the shops and people it supports and the money it keeps in the area. And he thought about making it fun.
Powers is no minimalist. He likes it when people buy stuff, from movie tickets to CDs. He's director of marketing and communications for The Grand Cinema. (Buy the annual membership, and popcorn by the tub!) He's also Rockwell Powers hip hop artist, who has just released his third CD, “BUILD,” with DJ Phinisey. They would be pleased if you would consider it (and its siblings, “Kids in the Back” and “Kids in the Back II”) for holiday giving, or receiving.
But Powers does believe in shopping as a deliberate choice, rather than a Pavlovian response. He likes the way Go Local and Shift Happens have been encouraging that, and he came up with an idea to add to that work: He has enlisted five musical acts to perform at five downtown stores on Black Friday afternoon.
“Each set will be three or four songs, 15 minutes,” he said. “I want it to work like a flash mob dance. I want people to stand there and engage with the music and art, and then get on with their shopping.”
He's paired the acts with stores that suit their styles.
At 1 p.m., Olivia Joy Hustoft and Jenny Snipstead will start the event at Learning Sprout Toys at 809 Pacific Ave. Their ukulele sweetness is perfect for kids and their families, Powers said.
“I wanted to find something for the toy store that is playful and gentle and warm, something a kid can stand around and engage in,” he said. “It'll be a great fit.”
And then it will be over, and Powers will be setting up for some 2 p.m. hip hop for UrbanXchange's target audience – people from middle school-age to about 30 – at 1932 Pacific Ave.
At 3 p.m. Goldfinch, one of Tacoma's best-known bands, will bring their acoustic sound to King's Books at 218 St. Helens Ave. It'll be music for people browsing for the newest Kate Atkinson novel, or perhaps a copy of Ken Miller's “Langata Rules: Pirates at Lat 10.”
By 4 p.m. Apartment Lights will be aptly matched with Millesime Designs at 743 Broadway.
Q Dot will emcee at 5 p.m. at hipster Feather & Oar at 759 Market St. He will have to work it to keep Chloe, the new store puppy, from stealing all the attention.
Powers thinks the music will bring customers to the stores. It would bring him.
“Incentivized programming works for me,” he said.
And incentives will help change old mall habits by introducing people to attractive, homemade, home-run alternatives in a fun and spunky downtown. Powers is pretty sure the people who come for the music will stay for the food then meander to more shops to put their money into the local economy. With this event, your buck stops here and stays here.
Speaking of bucks, the Black Friday event cost organizers just under $100, the amount Embellish Salon owner Patricia Lecy-Davis spent on the posters. All the musicians and Powers are volunteering their time and talents.
And, Powers added, he'll be back downtown the next day for Small Business Saturday.
The new Tacoma shopping scene is too big to fit into one day of fun.