FAIRFIELD (KPIX 5) — As shelter-in-place rules are relaxed, some counties are beginning to allow in-store shopping again, But the process is proving to be a slow one.
The Solano Town Center shopping mall in Fairfield reopened Wednesday. Those who expected there to be huge crowds and booming business may have underestimated the depth of the pandemic’s impact.
For people who have been cooped up in their homes for two months, a trip to the mall must feel like a rare moment of freedom. At least that’s how 7-year old Jonathan Bowers felt as he ran through the mall corridors.
“I feel so happy,” said Jonathan breathlessly. “I ain’t never been this happy because I just hate quarantine sometimes.”
But the reopening was far from a Black Friday. The crowd wasn’t really a crowd at all, as people — some wearing masks, others without — showed varying attitudes regarding social distancing.
“I was walking down here and some lady comes out of a store and she’s right here next to me!” said Fairfield resident John Lash. “And I’m looking at her going, ‘What the heck are you doing?'”
Many shoppers were disappointed by how few stores were actually open. But Solano Town Center General Manager Jennifer Nettles says the national chain stores are scrambling to comply with local ordinances.
“There are guidelines for restaurants, there’s guidelines for retail, there’s guidelines for different types of retail,” Nettles said. “So it’s going to be a staggered opening.”
One example of that is the Sweet Factory candy shop. Most of their merchandise used to be sold in bulk, but that’s not allowed anymore. So the owner spent days portioning candy into individual packages.
Dennis Ariza, the director of the Solano Town Center Art Gallery and Gift Shop, says before he can reopen, he has to teach all the new practices to 74 of his volunteer workers.
“I’ve spent two weeks getting ready; just paperwork and signage and doing research,” Ariza said.
Nettles said the mall just found out last week that it could reopen, so some of the larger anchor stores are still being cleaned and brought into compliance. A number of them are expected to open on Friday.
She is hopeful that normal shopping levels will resume by mid-June.
Fairfield resident Juan Coria has a video blog of life in his home town. He expected to see large crowds on Wednesday. He said seeing so few people in the mall is making him realize how disruptive the pandemic really is.
“It’s changing the whole world, you know?” he said. “It’s going to take some time to get back to normal.”