Lenox Square Employee: 'We're Still A Long Way From Normal'
Taking a walk around Lenox Square, it doesn't look like a mall that has just reopened after weeks of keeping its doors closed.
Simon, which owns and operates several malls around the state including Lenox, made the decision to reopen on Monday.
Most stores are still shuttered with their gates drawn, save for a select few. Clusters of patrons walked inside, but almost everyone wore a facial mask.
The illuminated electronic boards that would usually flash rotating advertisements for Apple, Tiffany and Bloomingdale's carried brightly illuminated warnings to maintain social distancing.
Outside the Louis Vuitton store, a line of masked customers waited to go inside so they could shop, one person at a time. A staff member holding a tablet computer ushered one in as another customer exited.
The flagship California Pizza Kitchen restaurant remained closed, with tables and chairs still stacked on top of each other. The chalkboard outside still read the specials for the week of April 7.
One of the stores opened is doors is Nadia's, a boutique clothing store run by Stephanie Barraza. She's owned the store for three years now, but has never seen anything like the fallout from the pandemic.
She said she wrestled for several days with the decision to reopen, but felt pressured by the financial burden.
"You know, we've got bills to pay," she said. "We do worry about our team members and customers. But it's upsetting to see this, and I guess it's a new normal."
Barraza said that while traffic has been slow in the two days since the mall opened its doors, she's hopeful that in the weeks ahead more people will return.
Even with that hope, she allowed one person in the store at the time to maintain recommendations for social distancing.
Down at the food court, there were a scattering of restaurants that decided to reopen, albeit with some limitations. Chick-Fil-A employees informed customers that they were only serving sandwiches and nuggets.
At Peachtree Pint, manager Jeff Hoffman stood behind the counter chopping pineapple while wearing a face mask. He said he had mixed emotions about returning to work, but was told by his upper management he had to.
"It wasn't my decision to reopen, unfortunately," he said. "We have to move forward at some point, but I'm not sure that's today."
Tuesday was his first day back, and he said he planned to spend the rest of the day getting a sense for how things were going to be going forward.
He said he anticipates it being weeks, even months, before things could be like they were before.
"I have mixed emotions about it," he said. "We're still a long ways from normal."