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FORSYTH – Most of the visitors to Hickory Point Mall appeared to be relaxed early Saturday.

On the last shopping day before Christmas, they have either already purchased all their presents, are flat broke or were at the mall purely to use the children's play area and other indoor amenities.

Ryan and Melissa Wuellner, South Dakota residents who were visiting family for the holidays, said they do most of their shopping online.

The couple, who both attended Mount Zion High School and have fond memories of performing in the Swingsations, find it convenient to shop via smartphone for most of their gifts.

Ryan Wuellner, who works as an IT engineer, said one of the reasons he relies on online shopping is that the city of Brookings, with about 30,000 residents including students, does not have a great selection of stores. The mall there has been closed for several years, he said.

“Decatur's better,” he said, adding that he is sorry to see the Hallmark store closing at the mall here.

Wuellner, who earned a degree in management information systems at Millikin University, said he believes he was one of the first people to do a majority of his shopping online, which includes household items such as pet food and laundry detergent.

“I went from my desktop to laptop computer,” he said. “Now I'm doing it on my phone.”

The Wuellners, who were married in Decatur 13 years ago, moved to Bozeman, Mont., before moving on to South Dakota. They have followed the academic career of Melissa, now a professor of fisheries at South Dakota State University, where she earned her Ph.D., after earning a master's in fisheries at Montana State University.

The couple was at the mall with their 3-year-old daughter, Lily, who was busy running around in the children's playing area.

“We came in case they had the train this year,” Ryan Wuellner said. “It's nice to have some playground available for her.”

Isaac and Jen Himanga, of Long Creek, were at the mall with their three daughters, 1 to 6 years old. They came mainly to use the play area.

They were done shopping, which they accomplished mostly in stores.

Isaac Himanga said he did find one thing online for his wife, but would not reveal what it was before the traditional Christmas day presentation of presents.

Jen Himanga said she was surprised it was not as busy as she anticipated at the mall.

“It's a little busier than non-Christmas, but not a lot,” she said, adding that it seemed to her a lot of people had left town already.

Jen, a stay-at-home mom and former band teacher, said she bought a few Christmas gifts online the day after Thanksgiving.

“I just didn't want to deal with Black Friday,” she said.

She finds it easier to locate specific items she wants at the stores, rather than search online through directories of categories.

“The benefit of buying local is you can touch whatever it is you buy,” said Isaac Himanga, a data scientist for Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Mary Wright, of Shorewood, had visible proof of the advantage of shopping locally, as she and her two grandchildren, Evelyn and Xander Ashley, had five shopping bags stuffed with purchases, mostly footwear.

“I didn't do anything online this year,” Wright said. “I did in the past. When you buy shoes and boots, you've got to try them on.”

Evelyn, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Okaw Middle School, said she purchased a cookbook online, which she could not find at a local store.

“I prefer to shop in stores,” Evelyn said. “It gets me out and about, and I get to hang out with my grandmother and my brother.”

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Staff Writer

Staff Writer for the Herald & Review.

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