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FARMINGTON — Holiday shoppers came out in steady droves on Black Friday, a sign that despite the economy dragging along, people can't seem to resist a good deal.

Shoppers at the Animas Valley Mall on Friday morning said the lure of a good deal was hard to turn down, even in a year that saw hundreds of workers in San Juan County laid off from their jobs.

Low gas prices helped make up some of the difference.

With regular unleaded gas at an all-year low of $1.95 per gallon in Farmington, some shoppers said having to pay less at the pump would likely increase their holiday shopping budgets — but not by much.

Marchil Maestas, 75, came out to the mall on Friday morning with his wife to shop for Christmas gifts and find a few deals.

Maestas, a retired oilfield worker, found a great deal on a black leather jacket at JCPenney. He said finding holiday items at a large discount at the mall is a spiritual pursuit.

"It's normally $120, and I got it for $42 and (change). The way I look at it, it's a gift from God," Maestas said. "(It's a gift) to get something special that you deserve to have. He sent me to buy what I wanted, and I found it."

Maestas said he knows many people who work in the San Juan Basin in the oil and gas industry who were laid off this year.

"I feel sorry for people (who) buy homes and they work in the oil field and they got kids," he said. "I just don't like to see that the kids (bear the brunt) of these layoffs."

Visiting from her home in El Centro, Calif., for the Thanksgiving holiday, Farmington native Leticia Alvarez came out to the mall Friday morning with her son and mother to search for Black Friday deals.

Alvarez, 39, said she bought lots of clothes — pajamas, pants, shoes — and blankets at 60 to 70 percent off. She was heading back out to the parking lot to load her car with five large bags full of items she bought before returning inside for more bargain hunting.

"There's a lot more (shopping) left," Alvarez said.

Farmington nurse Lyndsey Vanatta, 24, said many of the Black Friday deals she found were on items she wanted herself.

"It's all for me," Vanatta said, laughing. "It didn't start out that way. It wasn't supposed to. I bought one gift."

She found the deals on hand soap and body wash too enticing at the mall's Bath and Body Works store. She held a bag full of the soap items she bought that she said were "buy three, get three free."

She also found a $160 sewing machine at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft store for $80, she said.

Vanatta said holiday shopping for family and friends starts much earlier than Black Friday.

"I've already bought most my Christmas gifts this year, the last couple (of) months especially," she said. "I bought a little bit at a time. If you see something somebody likes, you're like, 'Oh, I'll get that for them for Christmas,' and then you have it ready."

Gift shopping year-round means she isn't faced with buying gifts in the remaining weeks of the year, which she said she can't afford to do.

Dwight Tulfer and Paul Stuart drove down from Durango, Colo., with their wives to do some holiday shopping at the mall.

Tulfer, who paints small-engine planes, said they found lots of deals on clothes.

"Sixty percent off for jeans," Tulfer said. "How can you go wrong?"

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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