No employees were working in Diva Couture dress shop in Cross Creek Mall on Saturday afternoon as it opened to coincide with the mall’s opening.
At 11 a.m., the mall reopened after Gov. Roy Cooper’s Phase 1 business reopening plan kicked in Friday evening.
At midday Saturday, many stores remained closed, with some of the bigger stores announcing with signs on their windows that they planned to open Monday.
For example, Belk had a sign out front saying it would reopen Monday at noon.
However, the mall was full of people walking down the corridors.
About one-third of the shoppers wore masks, and there were lines outside several stores. Cooper’s order only allows non-essential stores — bars and restaurants with inside customers not among them — to open at 50% capacity in Phase 1.
As he manned a mall cellphone kiosk in front of his business, Diva Couture owner Preep Khurana watched through the corner of his eye to see whether any customers came inside the shop.
Khurana, who was wearing a plastic face shield, said he couldn’t get any employees to come to work in his shop Saturday.
He said employees are balking at going back to work because they are concerned about the risk of contracting the coronavirus, and some are concerned about making less than they do on unemployment.
In mid-April, a federal program began shelling out an additional $600 a week to people who qualified for unemployment, a program that is scheduled to end July 31.
In the meantime, Khurana said he simply can’t get anyone to come back to work in his mall dress shop. He said the federal government should not be paying employees more than they were earning when they were working.
"I called everyone (to come into work) but nobody would," he said.
Khurana said it has been a real struggle trying to pay the rent with his mall businesses closed the past couple of months.
"I’m trying to survive right now," he said. "I have employees who are not coming back to work because they are concerned."
People walking around the mall expressed mixed views about the reopening.
Some wearing masks expressed trepidation, saying they worried that coronavirus cases may spike because of the store openings.
Tina Smith, who was wearing a mask and came with her daughter, who wanted to shop, was among those.
"They say, ‘Stay six feet apart,’ but it’s hard to do it in the mall," she said.
However, several people walking in the mall said they were happy the mall reopened and if people practiced social distancing, everything should be fine.
"It’s a way to get out of the house,’" said Daniel Sellers, who was with his son in the Food Court and said he planned to buy a Mother’s Day gift.
The Food Court itself was closed, with the plastic seats placed on top of tables. But three restaurants were serving to-go food.
There was a line of customers waiting to get into several stores, including Jimmy Jazz.
Among them was Jalen Dudley, who said he wanted to buy a pair of shoes that he could try on. He said he does not like ordering shoes online because he can’t try shoes on before they arrive.
Dudley, who was wearing a mask, said it should be safe for people to start going into stores as long as they wear masks and social distance.
"If people are distancing (themselves), they should be fine," he said.
Employees at Furniture DeKor in the mall said they were pleased that they can reopen.
One said she applied for unemployment and she heard nothing back, and another said she didn’t even bother to file for unemployment.
In downtown Fayetteville, John Malzone’s businesses opened back up Saturday. The real estate broker said he was elated.
The owner of The Cotton Exchange and The Livery is also a landlord to downtown businesses.
He said some of the downtown landlords are mom-and-pop businesses. and they are not being offered the state and federal help being offered to individuals.
"The thing is, this is a temporary situation," he said. "There was relief for business owners but not for landlords."
Staff writer John Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 486-3596.