The Westfield Meriden mall is set to reopen today, now that Gov. Ned Lamont has lifted the ban on “non-essential” retail with large common areas. Boscov’s department store will open Thursday.
This is a landmark moment for the Meriden area — in practical terms for shoppers, for store employees, for the stores themselves and for the city’s tax coffers — and, symbolically, a key first step in “reopening” the state’s economy.
“We need to get that mall back up and running, for the businesses inside and for the city as well,” Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said recently, noting that the mall is one of the city's largest taxpayers.
We trust that everything will go smoothly, because the mall and the individual stores have gone to great lengths in complying with many pages of state regulations — covering everything from capacity, to social distancing, to the use of face masks by employees, to making hand sanitizer available at store entrances.
The first phase of Lamont’s reopening plan includes restaurants (outdoor dining only), malls and offices. Hair salons and barbershops can open sometime in early June. Other retail, personal services, sporting events and large gatherings will be part of later phases.
But the new normal at Westfield Meriden won’t be the same as the old normal.
■ The temporary hours will be: At the mall, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. At Boscov’s, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Boscov’s will offer a special hour for vulnerable customers on Mondays from 11 a.m. to noon.■ Both the mall and Boscov’s have instituted enhanced cleaning procedures, especially in “high-touch” areas, and will follow guidance from the CDC and the state regarding face masks and social distancing. Boscov’s requests that all customers use face coverings unless they cannot do so for a medical reason. ■ The mall will provide face masks on request and hand sanitizers will be available. The number of customers will be monitored to avoid unhealthy crowding.■ Boscov’s dressing rooms will be closed temporarily, and special precautions will apply in the cosmetics department. All returns must go to the courtesy desk, and points of entry to the store may be limited. Plexiglas shields have been installed at registers.
Boscov's reopened its Pennsylvania stores on Mother's Day with new safeguards in place, and owner Jim Boscov said the feedback has been positive.
That said, the state Department of Economic and Community Development cautions that those “who choose to visit stores during this time should be aware of potential risks. Individuals over the age of 65 or with other health conditions should not go shopping, but instead continue to stay home and stay safe.”
Indeed, a substantial portion of the public may be reticent to get out there and shop again, after two months of very little retail activity. What we see in these early days of “reopening” may look more like a trickle than a flood.
Connecticut has been one of the most cautious states in approaching reopening its economy, perhaps chastened by the scenes of wild partying we’ve all seen in the news when other states responded to the clamor to get back to normal by throwing open the doors to bars and other venues.
It is to be hoped that this state’s caution will turn out to have been a wiser approach.