Masked merchants re-open Friday at Woodfield Mall after two-month hiatus

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Dennis Savchenko of Talk N'Fix at Woodfield Mall opened Friday May 29
Dennis Savchenko of Talk N’Fix at Woodfield Mall opened Friday, May 29, the first day the mall allowed retailers to resume sales to the public. Photos by Ann Meyer

A security guard stationed at the entrance to Woodfield Mall was prepared to greet fresh-faced shoppers with a hand-out facemask Friday as many stores opened for business after over two months of a forced shuttering.

But most shoppers, clerks and business owners wore their own masks, a noticeable difference from March, when Illinois’ stay-at-home order took effect.

“I sold more masks today than anything,” said Dennis Savchenko of Talk ‘N Fix, a kiosk that typically sells phone cases, screenguards and the like. Savchenko said he purchased the masks from the same wholesales he buys phone items from. He was selling the masks for $10 apiece.

He said he decided to open on Friday because the mall management allowed him to do so. Savchenko said the past two months of unplanned vacation were “tough” to manage.

He prepared to greet customers by using hand sanitizer after transactions. “I’m not really scared,” he said.

While a line of customers formed to enter Forever 21, which was limiting the number of people in the store, other stores and restaurants, from Auntie Anne’s pretzels to Stan’s Donuts and Garrett Popcorn Shops, remained closed Friday. Some were preparing to open on Saturday by restocking merchandise while remaining closed to customers.

Merchants said mall management sent out an email announcing they could resume business on, but at least one clerk said she thought it was too soon. Shoppers were largely few and far between in the vast mall on Friday.

Shoppers strolled Woodfield Mall on Friday, May 29, as stores began re-opening after over two months' of closure due to COVID-19.
Shoppers strolled Woodfield Mall on Friday, May 29, as stores began re-opening after a forced closure due to COVID-19.

Some retailers continued to sell online during the stay-at-home period, but Hammad Asghar of Jewelry Heaven said the kiosk business wasn’t equipped for online orders. “For the past two months it was bad, but I think it’s going to pick up,” he said. “It affected us a lot.”

Hammad Asghar of Jewelry Heaven was open for business with a mask on.
Hammad Asghar of Jewelry Heaven was open for business with a mask on.

Woodfield Mall was among the first major shopping areas in the Chicago area to re-open following the shelter-in-place directive that took effect March 18. Most retailers missed annual the Memorial Day sales lift last weekend, when malls remained closed. Retail sales plunged nationally in April, dropping about 16%, as consumer spending and consumer confidence both dove. Shopping bags were few and far between on Friday, as many consumers visiting the mall appeared to be window-shopping, but merchants were optimistic sales would pick up quickly.

Shoppers at Woodfield Mall consult their phone, but shopping bags with purchases were largely absent as many mall visitors  apparently were window shopping. Photos by Ann Meyer
Shoppers at Woodfield Mall donned masks as stores opened Friday, May 29, after a two-month hiatus due to COVID-19. Photos by Ann Meyer