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Special sales, gift cards keep registers ringing and extend holiday spirit

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Stores were filling up steadily Thursday with shoppers looking for sales, and for ways to draw out the festive feeling of the season just a little longer.

“I just love to get out in the crowd,” said Connie Blalock of Rome. “I always enjoy the holiday festivities, and the day after Christmas shopping just makes it last a little longer. I think about the real reason for the season and about the spirit of giving. It is just a happy time.”

Blalock was at Mount Berry Square Mall (map) with her husband looking for sales, checking out the new styles and trying to find gifts for upcoming birthdays.

“I’ve already found some great buys for my granddaughter,” she said, smiling as she pulled open a shopping bag filled with brightly colored tees and sweaters. “They just caught my eye because they were so pretty and such a great deal.”

Frankie Ford, manager at Maurices clothing store in the mall, had a very positive outlook for the day.

“I think we will be busy,” Ford said. “I think we will see a lot of people with gift cards — those always burn a hole in your pocket — and people trying to take advantage of the great sales we have going on now.”

Maurices started a big sale Monday that is still going on, Ford said, and the store added more items to the sales Thursday.

“I think it is exciting,” she said. “The mall has been very busy this year and while I don’t think as many people shopped at the last minute on Christmas Eve as they did last year, the shoppers are out and really enjoying the deals.”

Stephen Williams, from Shannon, was waiting patiently at the mall play area with his two daughters, Sarah and Raegan, while his wife shopped.

“We got money for Christmas and are looking to spend it,” he smiled. “Also, it is just great to take a little time to enjoy each other and relax.”

“My wife is looking for gloves and sales,” he added, laughing. “And I am watching our girls. I will tell you, this play area is the greatest invention a mall could have.”

At Dunhams, Jeff Dyer of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., was out shopping with his son and nephew.

“I am originally from Rome, and we’re in town visiting family and just gun-shopping, knife-shopping and shoe-shopping.”

Dyer explained that his son and his nephew received gift cards for Christmas, and this was one reason they had made the early morning trip to Dunhams.

“I am not so much interested in the deals or sales,” he added. “I just like to find what I need.”

Downtown was also the place to be.

Paula’s Boutique started its big 50-percent off sale, and parking spaces were filling as soon as they opened up on Broad Street.

The store was packed with customers browsing the jewelry, trying on shoes and finding great deals.

Amanda Hanks of Rome and her daughters were spending Christmas money, too.

“Paula’s is the first place we’ve visited today,” Hanks said. “We will probably stay downtown shopping today; we are just playing it by ear.”

Allison Rowland stopped to chat as her daughter Leah paid for her purchases.

“We come every year for this sale,” Rowland explained. “We try to get here early. We do make a day of it. We plan to have lunch at Schroeder’s and then go to the mall. It is our mother-daughter day. We do it every year.”

Todd Conaway, husband of Paula and co-owner of the boutique, was happy to see the crowd.

“Our 50-percent off sale always draws big crowds,” he said. “It is always kind of crazy, but that is a good thing.”

Conaway said they are even more excited about the upcoming year.

“We’re giving the store a fresh new look for the new year, getting in some new merchandise and moving some things around,” he said. “Paula’s had a really good year this year and we’ve been very blessed. I think Broad Street has had a good year, too.”