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On Johnson City mall's first day back open, tenants see uptick in business

David Floyd • May 4, 2020 at 7:44 PM

On the store’s first day open in more than a month, business at All Occasion Bags in The Mall at Johnson City was “way better” than the average Monday.

“I think just the fact that people have been stuck inside and everything’s been closed,” store owner Jordan Thomas said, explaining his theory behind that bump. “It’s a pretty, sunny day.”

Even though many of the stores in the mall remained closed on Monday, tenants were pleased to see a bump in business on the shopping center’s first day back open since late March.

As a precaution against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the mall closed its doors temporarily on March 24 but opted to reopen Monday with additions to its code of conduct for customers. Those include maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, not gathering in groups and adhering to individual rules established by tenants. The mall also recommends that customers cover their nose and mouth with a cloth mask.

“I figured it would be slow,” Thomas said. “There’s been traffic, and the traffic we have had have bought (something). The phone started ringing this morning before I even got here.”

With stores reopening, Thomas believes some customers are now finding places to spend their stimulus money. He added that his business has been selling a lot of merchandise online recently — about 60 to 70 packages a week.

Nicole Britt, owner of the Merle Norman Cosmetics location in the mall, said her sales were also up on Monday, a phenomenon that she hopes will continue.

“I’m really excited about the possibility of sales getting back to normal, but I don’t think they will be right at first,” Britt said. “I think they’re up today because everybody was needing to come get refills and things like that.”

Britt said the mall’s management has been supportive over the last several weeks, allowing her to come in and sell items curbside. The store has also hosted live videos on its social media platforms, directing customers to ways for them to shop online.

During the weeks in which his physical location at the mall was closed, Thomas said he was able to rely on savings. He said the mall also forgave his rent during that period.

“I would say the rent would be my biggest expense, so with that being eliminated, that helped,” he said.

Still taking precautions

At Merle Norman, Britt has arrows taped on the floor to direct traffic as it enters, which is intended to help maintain proper social distancing between customers.

Normally, her business would allow customers to test out cosmetics, but as a safeguard against the virus, she said the Merle Norman corporation has suspended all demonstrations and makeovers that involve touching a client’s face.

Britt said they’re also sanitizing the store every hour and disinfecting the credit card machine between customers.

Britt added that most customers have been wearing masks when they shop, but because there hasn’t been a ready supply of them for everyone, she’s been understanding of clients who come in without one.

Thomas said he’s not requiring customers to wear a mask, but he has asked visitors to maintain social distancing and stand 6 feet from the register when they check out.

“We have cleaned everything in the store from top to bottom while we were closed,” Thomas said. “We’ve wiped every inch of the store down from the floors to the shelves.”

Workers will also be staying 30 minutes over every day to sanitize everything once customers leave.

Britt said any change is difficult, but especially as a small business owner, it’s important to be able to adapt.

“This is your livelihood and you want to make sure you’re doing as much as you can to make sure you’re keep the business up with the changes in times,” she said.

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