DALLAS - Texas malls are among the places that can open again starting Friday. But there will be new rules for shoppers.
Malls, shopping centers and other retail stores are limited under Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order to just 25% capacity.
Each location had varying guidelines, to hopefully keep shoppers and employees safe from COVID-19.
Workers and customers had to get used to a new shopping experience, and most shoppers out Friday said it felt good to be able to support retailers in person.
At NorthPark Center in Dallas, workers started checking the number of people going in and out after the mall opened at 10 a.m.
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Many of NorthPark’s stores and restaurants will be open and offering in-store purchases and dinning, but not all have decided to open back up yet.
Customers were able to get a taste of what it's like to shop in a mall in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
Housekeeping staff held the doors for folks coming inside, and quickly cleaned the handles afterwards.
Inside, signs reminded people about social distancing and safety guidelines.
Public seating areas were sealed off.
Customers and employees must all wear face masks.
“I'm happy to see that it's not the same normal,” shopper Gina O’Briant said. ”It's a new normal, and that's a little scary. It's kind of like being in the Twilight Zone.
“It is weird. It's a new norm compared to February,” shopper Andre Adame said.
Adame went to NorthPark to exchange some shoes he bought last week when retail-to-go started.
He said the process went smoothly.
“When I went into the store, there was guy who opened the door for you and he gave me the hand sanitizer as you walked in, and then they had spots on the floor designated to where you needed to stand in order to check out,” he said.
Eiseman Jewelry, one of NorthPark Center's original tenants, is one of a handful of retailers that opened their doors Friday.
“We've had such a tremendous response from our relationship. Clients, it was gratifying to know that we could see them face-to-face if they wanted to come in,” Eiseman Jewelry owner, Richard Eiseman Jr., said.
Eiseman said the family-owned business was able to keep all 26 employees on the payroll this entire time. But they're phasing in workers due to social distancing guidelines.
“We only have one team that we're able to use,” he explained.
For now, only the north and south entrances at NorthPark are open.
Management expects business to pick up as more and more retailers open in the coming days and weeks.
“They were doing a really good job sanitizing everything as soon as people walked out the door,” Adame said. “It feels good to get out. It's a beautiful day.”
For now, the mall’s food court will remain closed with limited to-go orders. Workers will also be disinfecting all common areas and hand sanitizer stations will be available.
Like most malls, NorthPark is operating on a limited schedule for now. Retailers can set their own hours within that time frame.
Shoppers who are looking for something specific are encouraged to call ahead or check on a store’s website.
Simon Property Group, which is the largest mall owner in the United States, has several North Texas properties that will reopen Friday. Those include the Allen and Grand Prairie Premium Outlets, Grapevine Mills Mall and Firewheel Town Center in Garland.
All employees will be required to wear masks and take their temperature before work. Masks are encouraged for shoppers but not required.
For now, food courts will have limited seating and security will be reminding customers about social distancing guidelines.
Although malls can reopen starting Friday, not all will. The Galleria Dallas will wait until Monday since it wants to make sure everything is in place to promote a healthy and safe environment.