A handful of malls were still open in the Twin Cities on Friday, but employees outnumbered shoppers in the two biggest of them — Rosedale and Ridgedale.
Throughout the region and country, major retail chains shut down over the last two weeks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Earlier this week, the Mall of America, Southdale, Galleria and two outlet malls closed.
But in addition to Rosedale and Ridgedale, Burnsville Center, Maplewood Mall, Northtown and Har Mar were still open Friday for shoppers of the handful of stores that were operating inside each of them.
Amanda Jacobsen, co-owner of Games ‘N’ Go for gamers in Rosedale, said she worked because she didn’t want her employees to take a risk. “I would close if the mall would give us a clear answer on if our rent will be reduced,” she said. “Without that, my business won’t make it long.”
At Ridgedale, David Ricks opened his store Sheer Treasures Health & Wellness just long enough to distribute online orders to customers.
“I’m 72. I shouldn’t be around too many people,” he said. “We’re a health business, but the mall hasn’t told us anything about closing.”
Carol Spieckerman, founder of Spieckerman Retail, a market researcher, said, “Staying open creates an opportunity for small retailers on shaky ground to be there for the health and well-being of customers.”
Sandy Stein, founder of Retail Speak on LinkedIn, said malls can’t afford to close but face little choice. “Within two days I think nearly all malls be closed or they risk looking bad because they’re putting people in harm’s way,” Stein said.
Most employees interviewed at Rosedale and Ridgedale didn’t feel they were being put at serious risk to the virus because the number of shoppers has been small. Even so, they said it was time to close.
Aaron Foss, manager of Games by James in Rosedale, doesn’t think it’s wise for malls to be open, but he’s glad his store helps families who are looking for ways to pass extra time at home.
“People who normally buy one puzzle are buying three,” he said. “People who are buying say they’re glad we’re open for them.”
Daceon Coleman, manager of the Pagoda kiosk in Rosedale, said he feels safe at his job.
Besides fastidious cleaning of glass countertops and every piece of jewelry touched, he may only see 20 people in the entire mall in a day and only two or three customers. “I appreciate the opportunity to keep my family financially stable,” he said.
An employee at a Rosedale store who wouldn’t give her name said sales at her store haven’t even covered her salary. With no sink in the store, the woman had to use a nearby restroom to wash her hands. She brought a can of Lysol from home to sanitize the counter.