NORWALK, Conn. — An Amazon employee stood outside its Norwalk store Saturday, behind a transparent shield, turning away a customer because the store was over capacity.
Down the concourse of The SoNo Collection, a sign next to the closed doors at Caspar mattress proclaimed that shoppers could reserve the store – “No, really!” – or schedule a virtual appointment and follow it with EZ pickup. Twelve people were in line outside Zara, most of them couples, waiting to get in. All had masks on.
Life is different in Norwalk’s new mall, which closed for weeks as Connecticut struggled to stave off a pandemic. Norwalk officials remain bullish on The SoNo Collection.
“I’m very confident they will survive,” Mayor Harry Rilling said Monday. They’ve invested a tremendous amount in this effort and they have some very desirable stores. Obviously right now, people are a little reluctant to be out in public where there may be large gatherings. As the coronavirus starts to subside, people will feel more comfortable and will return to a new level of normal.”
A fair number of people wandered the mall Saturday, but obviously less people than there would have been on a Saturday before COVID-19 became a household phrase.
“The mall has done a great job on the reopening – making sure common areas are blocked, shared furniture is put in storage, and sanitizations are completed frequently,” Norwalk Director of Business Development & Tourism Sabrina Church said in an email. “Their capacity itself was lessened based on a 6 foot by 6 foot grid to ensure social distancing and safety of all patrons which would lead to what you are seeing which is overall fewer costumers than before COVID-19.”
The third-floor entrance to Bloomingdale’s was closed. A worker greeting shoppers on the second floor said business was pretty good and employees were happy to return to work and welcome the public. Inside the store, clerks were eager to offer assistance, asking what brand a shopper might be looking for.
Nordstrom appeared to be functioning normally. There was a woman selling cosmetics on the first floor, next to the elevator. Two kiosk merchants were selling masks. One also offered hand sanitizer.
Cohen’s Fashion Optical was open by appointment only, but Warby Parker was allowing shoppers in without restriction. There were lines outside Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch and Pink Victoria Secret. A maximum four people were allowed inside Sunglass Hut; Lush and Bath & Body Works were closed.
So, notably, was Pinstripes. It will reopen in mid-July, “with a reimagined dining and entertainment experience including curbside pickup, delivery and new menu items,” Founder/CEO Dale Schwartz states on the company’s website. “We have taken considerable time to modify our operating guidelines to assure a safe and pleasant dining experience for all of our guests and team members.”
CAMP was closed. So was Kay Jewelers.
“We are starting to carefully re-open our stores,” the Kay Jewelers website states. The Danbury Fair mall store and the Connecticut Post Mall store in Milford are listed as open.
And, outside, the sign for Yard House was covered. The restaurant appeared ready to open before the pandemic hit.
Norwalk is still listed on the Yard House website. The link is not active.
Brookfield Properties Retail Senior Marketing Manager JP Geoghegan declined to explain any of it, stating, “we never publicly discuss sales, traffic or lease negotiations. This is Brookfield Properties’ policy portfolio-wide. All of our open tenants are listed on our website and continue to be updated as more and more return.”
Comparing that list with one published when the mall opened in October, you find that Barry’s Bootcamp has not opened. On the other hand, there are stores that weren’t listed in October: Pokelicious, SoNo Ramen, Uncle Seven, UNTUCKit, La Picante and Gelato & Cioccolato.
“Since welcoming back the community last month, our primary focus has been to provide our community with a safe, clean environment where people feel comfortable shopping, going into work or just spending their time,” Geoghegan said. “As our tenants continue to reopen their doors, we’ve experienced an increase of traffic and are pleased that guests are adhering to our public safety measures. Our security team continues to be diligent with offering complimentary masks to guests who don’t have a face covering and are monitoring the mall’s traffic to ensure that the appropriate health and safety measures are being taken.”
He continued, “We recognize that returning to a public setting is a personal decision for everyone, whether it be The SoNo Collection, the office, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. For our community members that are not yet ready to return, we have our curbside-pickup program as an available option. We have designated the pick-up area where we typically offer our valet service on P2. Store employees bring purchased items directly to the customer’s vehicle, eliminating the need for customers to leave their cars.”
Church wrote, “COVID-19 has impacted everyone in more ways than one and has created a cultural change based on health guidelines and personal preferences. As phasing continues to progress I believe more people will feel comfortable going to the mall to shop or spend time. With what is going on in Texas, Florida, and other states around the country, it’s important that people continue to follow local and state health guidelines. However, if we continue on the track we are I would only expect to see the patrons at the mall increase as phasing continues.”