Retail can reopen, except for stores tucked away in malls


QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Retail falls under Phase Two, which allowed shops across the Capital Region to reopen at half capacity on Wednesday. However, stores within malls that do not have their own external exit and entrance are not allowed to operate as malls are still closed. 

“He (the Governor) is taking an already tumultuous economic situation and making it significantly worse,” said Jeffrey Ives.

Ives owns Jonathan Reid, a men’s clothing store in Aviation Mall. He told NEWS10 ABC that this is putting he and other store owners at a significant disadvantage as they watch their stand alone competitors open their doors.

“Retail in close proximity is the same everywhere whether it’s Walmart, whether it’s Target, whether it’s Brooks Brothers, Men’s Warehouse or Jonathan Reid. There’s more people at the Saratoga, Queensbury and Albany Walmart right now than there would be in Aviation Mall,” said Ives.

The state is only allowing for curbside pick-up for the stores tucked away in malls. The owner of Laced Up in Crossgates Mall, Phillip Pevzner, told NEWS10 that it’s not the same and it’s just not cutting it in terms of profit.

“We’ve tried curbside pick-up and it’s just a drop in the bucket as to what it takes to keep us alive. The reason people go to malls as opposed to online shopping is because they want to see the item, they want to try it on. There’s a whole shopping experience that goes with that,” said Pevzner.

Peter Elizter, President of Peter Harris, has several stand alone stores throughout the Capital Region that opened on Wednesday, but he also has a store in Aviation Mall. He told NEWS10, not only has Governor Andrew Cuomo excluded these types of stores, he also has not issued any guidance as to when they will be able to reopen.

“We haven’t been open in two and a half months and there’s also no prospect on when we can get open, so it’s intensely frustrating,” said Elitzer.

NEWS10 reached out to the state on Wednesday for some clarification, and they did confirm that malls are currently not specifically included in any of the phases. They said they’re continuing to look at how to go about reopening malls and that decisions will be driven by data and science. They added that because malls are large indoor areas that can create non-essential gatherings, it’s more complicated to figure out. 

Ives said these small businesses cannot afford to stay closed for much longer.

“Federal funding assistance was not geared towards helping us long-term. Payroll protection funds have dried up, rents are due, vendors are asking for payments, and our staff are eager to return to work,” said Ives.

Pyramid Management Group owns a number of malls, including Aviation and Crossgates. They’ve released a statement detailing the measures they’ve taken to ensure a safe and responsible opening. They said they hope the Governor reconsiders.

The statement reads in part:

“Our collective investment of time and money into safely and responsibly re-opening Aviation Mall was considerable. What’s more, our retailers and their employees were anticipating the scheduled Phase Two re-opening today as a way to get back to work and begin supporting their families and our local economies. Re-opening is key to the survival of these retailers, many of which are locally owned and are now in grave danger of never being able to open their doors. What’s more, we believe our very large open spaces easily facilitates social distancing and will lessen the density in stand-alone stores that are allowed to re-open in Phase Two. Additionally, not all of our tenants will be reopening in Phase Two. Restaurants and entertainment venues, which comprise a good portion of our facilities, will remain closed until subsequent phases. By design, this will further lessen the density of guests in our centers.”

Crossgates Mall Marketing Director Jennifer Smith told NEWS10 that they’ve enlisted a host of A-List celebrities to help encourage shoppers to do their part shopping safely when they do get the go-ahead to reopen.

“Participating celebrities including Bob Sagat, Lance Bass, Lindsay Lohan, Chuck Norris, Sean Paul, Xzibit and Teresa Giudice have each created a series of fun, educational and often light-hearted videos showcasing their ‘Top Tips to Shop Safe,'” said Smith. 

They’ve also released a video showing the sanitizing measures they have put in place.

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