OTTUMWA — The Quincy Place Mall officially reopened its doors 10 a.m. on Friday. Mike Nelson, the mall’s maintenance and on-site manager, said he and employees felt comfortable with reopening this week.
“According to the governor, we could have opened two weeks ago,” Nelson said, “but we didn’t feel that was the time for us. We wanted to stretch it for two weeks to give the other stores the opportunity to get their staff back in, get their protocols back in place. We decided this was the time to open.”
Nelson said both mall employees and store employees are doing their part to implement precautions, such as deep cleaning, stressing social distancing and encouraging people to wear masks.
“About every 45 minutes to an hour all the door handles get wiped down,” he said. “The furniture gets wiped down. The bathrooms get deep sanitized every hour. We’re also putting sanitization stations throughout the mall for people to use.”
As Nelson cleaned inside the mall, managers and owners of the stores inside were preparing for their reopenings and cleaning their facilities. Angela Stansberry and Tara Carlberg, the managers of Gardner-Collier Jewelry, were more than excited to reopen their doors.
“The mall decided to open so we thought we better open, too,” Stansberry said. “We’re going to have to get into it — it’s not going to fix itself. Places have got to open up.”
Carlberg and Stansberry are taking precautions not only for their safety, but for the customers’ safety as well.
“We have hand sanitizer everywhere so somebody can use it,” Carlberg said. Stansberry said she and Carlberg plan to wear masks when customers come in. Although they won’t require customers to wear masks, they do recommend it. Social distancing will be stressed, too.
In the meantime both of the managers will figure out other ways to keep the jewelry free from germs. They plan to sanitize the jewelry before letting customers try it on.
Despite the rising COVID-19 cases, Stansberry and Carlberg aren’t afraid of reopening their doors. They plan to “play it one person at a time.” They will only allow 10 people inside their store at a time. If more than 10 people show up, they will ask the others to wait outside.
Eccentric Times, a gift store that features items of medieval and fantasy folklore, also reopened its doors Friday. Owners Trina McConnell and Kevin Weigelt thought it was a good time to reopen.
“Everything has been shut down long enough and it’s time to get the economy starting up again,” McConnell said.
Like Stansberry and Carlberg, both will have customers sanitize their hands. Customers are given the option to wear masks.
McConnell and Stansberry said reopening the stores was necessary, especially since the closure of the mall hindered their businesses.
“It affected business greatly,” McConnell said. “This store would not only pay for the bills in this place, but it also pays our phone bills. So yeah, it’s affected it greatly.”
“It’s very bad for small businesses like this one, like mom-and-pop businesses,” Stansberry said. “It’s going to take awhile and we may not recover from it, you just don’t know. But we’re going to try and get it back up and going again. As time goes on, people will feel more comfortable and more people will come back. We have some loyal customers.”
Both of them are hopeful for business and Nelson remains optimistic about the mall’s reopening.
“We’re hoping everything goes good with the new norm,” Nelson said. “It comes back around and people see we’re open — hopefully people start coming out and start shopping. It’s been a long shutdown. If we don’t get back to business at some point, the stores start hurting for sales.”
“The shops have to be open,” Nelson added. “People have to shop, but with that said we have to do it in a safe way, too. We’ll try to do our part to ensure that it’s done in a safe manner.”