Dec. 25--Francis Scott Key Mall was relatively quiet Tuesday morning.
Even Santa, usually besieged by youngsters either smiling or crying as they sit on his lap, had a break.
"My wish for everyone is to enjoy Christmas," Santa said. "The smile on the face of a child when they open their presents is the present to me."
"It's been very quiet today," he said, but he noted that the past weekends have been busy. People could even bring their pets for a photo for a limited time during the month.
"I had two Great Danes. I held the leash and they jumped, pulled my back. I took a lot of Aleve," he said.
Wrapping up the season
Members of the Kiwanis Club of Suburban Frederick were busy wrapping items for customers near the center mall. It is the 24th year for the service, with a requested donation of at least $2 per package.
Dave Maloney, secretary of the club and gift wrap coordinator, said the club has donated more than $600,000 to community groups, mostly to help needy children and youth, over the nearly quarter-century.
"We wrap everything from tiny jewelry boxes to tricycles," Maloney said. "Some items are so big we have to put the wrapping paper on the floor and it takes more than one person to do the wrapping."
The club has been at the mall since Dec. 6 and were going to wrap it up at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"We are really indebted to the FSK Mall for allowing us to do this," Maloney said. Along with himself and two other Kiwanis Club members, there were four other volunteers.
"We have a lot of people from businesses such as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and school and Scout groups that volunteer with us," Maloney said.
Customers even bring in items from stores outside the mall to be wrapped or gifts they have had at home and need to be wrapped at the last minute. "It has been a good year. We ordered more wrapping paper and boxes than last year, and we are running out. Everyone has a good time and we get to chat with the people who come by," Maloney said.
Big day on Thursday
Wesley Leatherman, assistant manager at Sears, said his busiest day will be Thursday. The store, like some others, will open the day after Christmas at 7 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Christmas Day will give the store's crew a break, Leatherman said, noting that the season has been busy. Small appliances, tools, a Mr. Beer kit (for home brewing), TVs and small Secret Santa gifts have been popular this year, Leatherman said.
"And people buy (large) appliances for the family or a gift for the wife," Leatherman said. The Wolfsville native has been with Sears for 8 1/2 years.
J.C. Penney will be open early hours on Thursday, too, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., said Lori Tolley, store manager.
"It's winding down today. Yesterday (Monday) was a very good day, very busy," Tolley said.
The three big areas of sale each Christmas season are, according to Tolley, men's apparel by women shoppers; jewelry for women by men shoppers, and gift cards for those you don't know what to buy for.
Tolley, who has been with Penney's fir 20 years and at the FSK Mall store for eight years, said one great addition this year is BJ's Restaurant. Located out the back door of Penney's, the restaurant is not only a favorite of the store staff, but shoppers as well.
"They can walk to BJ's, have lunch or dinner and walk back to the store," Tolley said. "They don't have to drive away to another restaurant."
A healthy New Year
Tammy Norris, manager at the FMH Wellness Center at the mall, said gift certificates for massages are the big seller every year.
Customers can also get gift cards for yoga, acupuncture and reflexology.
"We always see an increase in sales this time of year for massages," Norris said. "It is a nice gift."
The Wellness Center will be open normal hours, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday.
A bit different
Heather Ernst, communications and marketing manager for the mall, said the one thing she saw different this year was sales ahead of the normal season rush.
"Stores were putting out 40 percent or more sales earlier than usual this year," Ernst said.
Foot traffic was down at the mall this year, Ernst said. "It has been good, just not as good as last year."
Feedback from shops showed winter apparel such as jackets, hoodies and boots were big this year, Ernst said. She also noticed more daytime shoppers than usual this year.