By Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Each year, it seems like many of us leave the Christmas shopping until the last minute. But there are also others buying Christmas gifts in the summertime.
Not me. You can call me "Last-minute Mark." I have been known to be out doing last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve at suppertime. That's shameful, but I remember there were others doing the same thing, so I wasn't alone.
Last-minute shopping is a dangerous thing. Nowadays, with money so tight and prices rising, shopping for gifts should be well thought out to avoid overspending. You can get carried away sometimes.
Yeah, I have shopped a few weeks early. But I do get that empty feeling, as Christmas gets closer, thinking I should get "just one more thing" for this one and that one. So I'd go back through the stores and do a "double dip" for the kids, and my wife.
How did we shop in the "old days?" There wasn't even an eBay, or Amazon or Internet shopping back then. There were no giant malls, where every store, every day, there is a "special sale" of some kind. Sometimes there isn't a sale at all - you could return the following month and buy the same thing that's still at the sale price.
I'll take you back a few years and give you something to think about. Remember W.T. Grant, where they had a second-level downstairs loaded with goodies from wall to wall? How about S.S. Kresge's department store (now called Kmart), and Norbans, where you could buy almost anything? Or Jenss, Noah's Ark, etc., which were all located on Main Street in Niagara Falls?
How about Krausman's department store with its wooden floors, and the elevator at the back of the store to get customers to the second level? Remember Thursday nights, when the stores were open until 9 p.m. and the streets were bumper-to-bumper with cars? If I sat here long enough and gave it some thought, I could name 90 percent of the Main Street stores from back then.
I admit I do a portion of my shopping online now, because of my inability to move about as freely as I used to. But give me the good old-fashioned way of buying, and that is face to face with an interested sales clerk or, most times, the owner of any neat little family-owned or -operated neighborhood store. I can buy anything from my neat little neighborhood stores as I can in any of the "big box" stores, or stores that are owned and operated from overseas. I'll bet you could walk into any independently owned/operated store in the area and find what you want at a very competitive price. Then when you leave you will have a nice, warm, comfortable feeling - plus you will be wished a cheerful and meaningful "Merry Christmas."
Over the years, I operated gas station/repair garages (three of them), a small diner-type restaurant, and, for many other years, ran my own fishing tackle shop. I built up a great faithful customer base right in the nose of the "marts," and the other established big discount stores that had sporting goods departments.
That's one of my things in life - shop the little guy, the independent; support them and know your money is staying right there in your town or village.
I preach a lot about taking a kid fishing, and don't forget about the elderly. If you are stumped on gifts, here are a few suggestions:
•A new rod and reel is always a top priority. If you have enough of these, how about some artificial lures? A landing net would be nice, or how about a personal flotation device (life jacket)? If you go for the PFD, make sure it is Coast Guard approved. For a child, you will need a Type I or a Type II device, because it has the capability of turning a child face up in the water. Make sure you get the proper fit and don't buy one for your child to grow into. It should fit properly at the beginning - not too tight or too loose.
•Every fisherperson needs a tackle box. When looking, get one that looks too big, because a tackle box could get outgrown pretty fast.
So my message is, don't wait until Christmas Eve to shop. Take a stroll through any of your local retailers and you will find the perfect last-minute gift. Look through this paper that you are reading right now, check the advertisers, and patronize them. They are important.