Stores open to small crowds: ‘It makes you feel a little bit better’

Shoppers stepped out on Tuesday to stretch their legs and support local retail as stores reopened for the first time since March due to the coronavirus.

At the Dayton Mall, about 50 people lined up outside before the mall opened at 11 a.m.

PHOTOS: Here's what it looked like when local malls reopened today

The Dayton Mall reopened with reduced hours. For the foreseeable future, the mall will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., said general manager of the mall Dave Duebber. The reduced hours help ensure all frequently touched surfaces can get a “deep clean,” Duebber said.

Lines of less than 10 people lined up outside the various entrances at the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek just before 11 a.m. when the mall opened. The center’s hours are also 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

“We have been delighted to welcome our guests back to the Mall at Fairfield Commons today,” said General Manager Leanne Rubosky. “It has been great to be open and see families back in the Center. We found the reopening to go well and our guests are happy to be back shopping and eating at the Center.”

Planned reopening dates for individual tenants may vary, said Alexis Stiver, Commons’ marketing director, so the mall encouraged guests to call ahead. Duebber said the same is true for tenants at the Dayton Mall.

Many guests were leaving the Commons soon after its opening at 11 a.m. after they were disappointed to find the store they planned to shop at was still closed.

About half the guests walking into stores in the Beavercreek mall were wearing masks and most people were following social distancing.

Some restroom facilities at both Fairfield Commons and Dayton Mall had signs posted saying they would be temporarily closed.

The Commons mall is 14-year-old Fairborn resident Aubree Banzant’s second home, she said. At 11:20 a.m., Banzant was growing frustrated while waiting outside the gated Rue 21 store that was supposed to open at 11 a.m.

“After school, every single day, for three months straight — I’m talking I did not miss one day,” Banzant said. “My mom would pick me and my two friends up and drop us off here and pick us up. When the mall closed, I was bitter.”

Once inside, most stores were closed at both malls, but there were long lines at stores like JD and Forever 21 at the Dayton Mall due to the lowered capacities allowed in those stores.

Diana Sanchez and her boyfriend were in line at the JD shoe store to see if the new Jordan shoe had been stocked yet. JD employees allowed 34 people in the store at a time.

Diamond and Carlos Motley were in line at Forever 21 on Tuesday. The couple lives in Atlanta, but they were in Dayton visiting Diamond Motley’s mother for Mother’s Day.

The fitting rooms at Forever 21 were closed on Tuesday and the employees were only letting a small number of people into the store at a time.

Diamond Motley said that most stores, restaurants and clubs are open in Atlanta, but like Ohio, some people are still leery of going out. The Motley’s said they got into town last week and Tuesday was the first time they had left Diamond’s mother’s house.

When Wilmington resident Michele Stewart found out last week that the mall would open Tuesday, she immediately took the day off work and arranged a day date with her mother Rheada Brown.

“I’m needing clothes for the season and we like to sit down and get a Starbucks, get something to eat and just people watch,” Stewart said. “You just feel like you’re out and not cooped in the house, especially when the weather is yucky.”

Another mother and daughter pair, Fairborn residents Krista and Kortney Esposito, shopped across the street from the Commons at the Michael’s craft shop as soon as it opened at 11 a.m.

Mostly shopping to get painting supplies for her daughter Kortney, Esposito said it felt great to get out of the house to do something normal, but that shopping still didn’t feel the same.

“You look around and see people with a bunch of face masks, it just kind of makes it a little more intense,” Esposito said. “You still have that ‘what if’ — what if today is the day I get it (coronavirus)? It’s just weird, it’s different … But it makes you feel a little bit better.”

Christopher and Kristi Lowe went to the Dayton Mall so that Christopher could get his eyebrows done, but the shop was closed. Although the thing they had come out for wasn’t open, the mother and son continued to browse what was open at the mall. The Lowes said they were surprised that not all the stores were open, but understood why some stayed closed.

Christopher Lowe said he works in the food service and will have to take the same precautions that the employees at the Dayton Mall are currently taking.

“I hope people are patient (with the retail employees),” Kristi Lowe said.

The Lowes said their shopping experience on Tuesday was surreal.

“The guy at Auntie Anne’s was taking off his gloves and sanitizing and putting new ones on for every new person,” Kristi Lowe said. “This is very weird.”

Duebber said shoppers seemed to be happy to have an opportunity to get out of the house.

“I think (shoppers) appreciate the measures we’re taking to keep everyone safe,” Duebber said.

In the Oregon District, many stores also remained closed on Tuesday.

Brim is open by appointment only, according to signs outside the store. Heart Mercantile, Luna Gifts and Beck and Call are still closed for in-store shopping. The Oregon District Goodwill and Exotic Fantasies opened for in-store shopping on Tuesday.

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