Stone Road Mall reopened Friday, but the manager says it will take a few more weeks before the number of the retailers and services inside returns to normal.
About 40 per cent of mall retailers opened on Friday, said Kevin Knight, general manager of Stone Road Mall.
“Honesty, I think that’s pretty fantastic considering they had three days notice and having to bring staff back and everything,” said Knight. “Everybody is anxious to get their doors open, but everybody has different challenges and some are going to take longer than others.”
Some of the stores not open on Friday were expecting to be open later in the week.
“Marshall’s is planning on reopening Wednesday, which a lot of people are excited for. Some of the others are hesitant to give me dates because they want to make sure they can stick to them first,” said Knight.
The Stone Road Mall now has a person stationed at each entrance informing people they require a mask to enter and offering hand sanitizer.
Because of an order by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, masks must be worn by those who are able in many indoor spaces, including retail establishments.
“Most people already have masks on, those who don’t I would say the majority had one with them to put on and some of the others have thanked us for letting them know and they will go buy one and come back,” said Knight.
Some seating in the mall is blocked to accommodate physical distancing. Many kiosks which usually have cell phones and other hand-held gadgets are currently closed.
The mall’s food court is currently closed due to a renovation that began months prior to the shut down.
Decals on the main doors direct people in and out and floor decals assist with physical distancing.
Along with the mall’s safety regulations, each store also has their own, including hand sanitizer at most doors and limits on the number of people who can enter at a time.
“We think that is creating a very safe shopping environment,” said Knight.
Although there was a line up to get in the mall at its 11 a.m. opening and some stores had queues throughout the day because of limits to how many could enter, customer traffic was noticeably down.
“Normally, I don’t any GM would ever say there’s enough traffic to make them happy. Given this situation, I think I am pretty happy given the volume,” said Knight. “It’s getting much needed customers to the stores that need to get some sales going through the tills again, but it’s still at a volume that is allowing everybody to be safe.”
He added: “I would like to commend everybody who was in that line up, everybody was paying good attention to social distancing and really keeping an eye on their neighbours and I really appreciate that. It makes our job easier.”
Knight said the percentage of stores that opened on the first day is similar to other malls owned by Primaris Management Inc.
“When they first opened those properties in provinces like Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and B.C. that have been open for two to three weeks now, at this point are like 70 to 75 per cent open. We are expecting about the same progression here,” he said.
A shut down of non-essential construction has delayed the new east wing construction at the mall, which will eventually add a Homesense, Mark's clothing store and Toys R Us to its offerings.
“They have been back at it about a month now and they are pushing hard to make up for lost time,” said Knight.
A tenant has also been found for the recently vacated Pier 1 Imports store at the south side of the building.
“I can’t discuss who it is yet because they haven’t announced themselves, but it will be their first location in Guelph and I think they will be an excellent addition,” said Knight. “They have been chomping at the bit to get in here.”