Raekwon Martin of Bloomington drove to Mall of America on Wednesday morning to be part of its reopening after 11 weeks of being closed because of COVID-19 and then the unrest after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
“I wanted to catch my shopping before everyone else,” he said. “I’m used to coming here every week, but during the last few months, I have grown used to disappointment. It feels good to be here again and beat the wave.”
With only about 150 of the mall’s 500 stores open on Wednesday, many customers were likely to find favorite stores still closed. Macy’s opened last week and Nordstrom opens Thursday, but Nickelodeon Universe, many food-court restaurants, Sea Life and CMX movie theaters remain closed. An increasing number of retailers are expected to open each day.
On a normal day, the mall would expect about 150,000 visitors, but Jill Renslow, senior vice president of business development, expects far fewer than that initially.
“Parking spaces have been reduced by 50%, and that should keep the number of mall visitors at about 35% capacity,” she said.
Ramp spaces on levels five through seven have been closed in some wings. The east surface lot on 82nd Street and 24th Avenue is closed. The south-side surface lot and a part of the north-side lot near Ikea is closed.
Face masks are not required to enter the mall, but some retailers in the mall are requiring them before entry.
The most popular destinations were easily discovered. Many shoppers thought the mall opened at 10, but stores did not open until 11. Mall doors open at 8 a.m., and stores close at 7 p.m. daily.
The line at JD Sports stretched to about 50 people as it opened at 11. Andrew Tran of Eagan got in line at 8 a.m. to nab a pair of just-released athletic shoes, the Air Jordan 1 Royal Toe.
“With so many stores closed, I have a good chance of finally getting them,” he said. “It helps to be first in line.”
JD store employees were distributing slips of paper for customers to write down their shoe size. Only two customers were allowed in the store at a time for safe distancing.
Martin Hallkvist, owner of Scandinavian North, couldn’t open his store Wednesday because he couldn’t round up enough employees to work. The mall gave store owners only a few days’ notice regarding the reopening.
“All of my five employees are eager to come back, but they needed more than five days’ notice,” he said. “Our customer demographic is a bit older so I think our traffic will be down 80% initially. I feel blessed for the government assistance to be able to reopen.”
MOA neighbor Ikea reopened earlier in the week.
Several shoppers in line to check out said they had tried to “click and collect” their order at Ikea’s website, but the time slots were always full. The company has become a target of social media complaints about its slow adoption of e-commerce.
Orders have been canceled, phone lines are busy and home-delivery waits are three to five weeks. With slots opening up for click and collect at midnight, only night owls were able to nab time slots for pickup.
To check to see if a Mall of America retailer is open, go to MallofAmerica.com. The site also lists retailers offering curbside pickup, which has moved to level one east and west parking ramps. About 25 retailers participate.
Malls were able to open in mid-May, but because of its size, MOA was planning to take some extra time to figure out the logistics. The week before the planned opening George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, and the ensuing protests and unrest had MOA postponing opening plans again.
The Twin Cities metro’s other malls are open as well.