Manager: Reopening at mall has led to confusion

What had appeared to be a rather straightforward directive by Gov. Tom Wolf to allow some non-essential northwestern Pennsylvania businesses to reopen last Friday created confusion instead for several days at the Cranberry Mall.

“All of it was very vague and we just didn’t have a lot to go on,” mall property manager Jeff Clark said Monday. “The governor’s website gives some (business) descriptions but mostly it is limited to businesses that not able to open, like hair salons and nail places. It really didn’t say anything about malls. It wasn’t easy to figure it all out.”

On May 8, the mall reopened to public access for the first time since it completely shut down March 20. A few of the mall’s retail tenants as well as a dialysis center had remained open since they dealt with what was categorized as essential services and had separate entry and exit points within the mall.

Last week, though, that outline changed with Wolf’s decision to allow more businesses to open. But there wasn’t specific information included in the directive about shopping malls.

“The governor’s order didn’t specifically list malls as able to reopen because it mainly gets specific only as to what can’t open,” said Clark. “So, we began talking last week with our tenants that weren’t in that category, like salons, about opening up again all through the mall.”

Opening was busy

On Friday, the mall reopened with limited hours and a requirement that mall patrons wear protective face masks. The hours were reduced to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

“On Friday, it was busy and it stayed busy on Saturday, too. It wasn’t packed but there were people milling around and going into the open stores. We weren’t crowded but it was sure better than before,” said Clark, who returned to work along with five other mall employees.

Among those re-opening were the larger mall stores that included Dunham’s Sports, Label Shopper and The Shoe Department.

Within a day, though, Label Shopper closed back down so the New York-based corporate office could review business plans for all its outlets.

“It opened but then shut down again. The corporate office told me it is trying to sort out the rules by states and so they wanted to do more studying as to what they are allowed to do,” said Clark. “I don’t know when they will open again.”

The same corporate dealing affects two other popular mall stores. Maurice’s apparel shop and Bath and Body Works have not reopened.

” I talked with them last week and they said they had to speak with their corporate offices and have any openings reviewed,” said Clark. “They both said the opening might be this week.”

More stores to open

As of Monday, there were seven retailers open for business at the mall. That accounts for about half the mall’s roster of businesses and other enterprises including a senior center and community church and cinemas.

“What we are telling people is that we will have more stores opening but how that happens has nothing to do with the mall management. It is up to the stores,” said Clark. “I do think the movie theaters will probably be the last to open because of social distancing and Hollywood not releasing any new films.”

For Clark, trying to sort out initially if the mall could open and then subsequently working with tenants to determine if they planned to reopen was confusing and labor intensive.

“Everything about it was so vague and general that you just couldn’t tell exactly how you should do it,” said Clark. “I called the legislators, bugging them daily to find something more specific about what to do and they said they didn’t know anymore than I did. So I researched it and did what I could. I never had anyone notify us or explain anything. But, just in case, we do a check up every day to see if there are any changes in what can and cannot be open.”