Large metro Atlanta malls reopen, but shoppers are sparse

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People walk by a sign indicating the direction to the Lenox Square Mall’s entrance Monday, May 4, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

By J.D. Capelouto, Raisa Habersham and Amanda C. Coyne

After what may have seemed like an eternity for dedicated shoppers, a slate of large malls across metro Atlanta reopened Monday. But most stores remained closed and customers were scant at retail hubs that are usually among the city’s most popular.

Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, The Mall of Georgia, Sugarloaf Mills and Town Center at Cobb all welcomed shoppers back on Monday. Those malls were previously set to open Friday, but owner Simon Property Group delayed the reopening. Northlake Mall in Tucker also reopened Monday.

At Lenox, just a handful of cars sat in the parking decks and lots Monday afternoon. Few customers were inside and security guards were stationed at entrances to hand out gloves and masks.

Phipps felt almost like a ghost town, with a few high-end retailers like Gucci and Tom Ford opening their doors but restricting the number of people that could go inside.


A long line formed outside of Lenox Square Mall before the doors opened Monday, but there were not many people in the mall in the afternoon. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

At the Mall of Georgia, most of the shops that did choose to open were devoid of customers.

John Whitfield tried to combat his cabin fever with a trip to the Mall of Georgia in Buford. He was curious how many stores would be open and hoped to get a gift for Mother’s Day. He didn’t find a present, but said he felt safe on his shopping trip.

“It seems like they’re doing everything they can,” Whitfield said. “I don’t think they should’ve opened yet, but that’s just me.”

Simon said the malls are implementing a set of cleaning and safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We believe that reopening our properties will not only help people get back to work during these challenging times, but also enable us to use our properties to further support charitable initiatives,” John Rulli, the president of Simon, said in a statement.

Perimeter, North Point and Cumberland malls plan to reopen Tuesday.

Mariana Castro visited Phipps Plaza after seeing few women’s stores open at Lenox. The 19-year-old was shopping for her boyfriend’s niece’s quinceañera, a coming-of-age celebration.

“We knew there were going to be sales, so we’re looking for gifts for her,” Castro said, adding that she hopes the stores don’t close again. “It’s a special moment for her.”


A line forms outside JD, a shoe store, at the Mall of Georgia on Monday.

The Lenox Mall food court was also mostly deserted, with just a few eateries open and several tables marked with blue tape indicating patrons couldn’t sit there. Stores that were open had signs telling customers to stay 6 feet apart and some required customers to wear a mask.

A sign on clothing store Anthropologie told customers not to enter if they had a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19. Clothing store Guess only allowed 25 people inside at a time.

It was a similar scene at Mall of Georgia, where less than half of the storefronts were open. A line formed outside JD, a shoe store, which set a limit of 15 customers and employees inside at a time.

The food court was the center of activity at the mall, helped by the fact it was one of a limited number of entrances to the building. About half of the restaurants were serving customers and half the seating was cordoned off by caution tape. Mall staff were regularly cleaning the tables and chairs where people had eaten.


Lenox Mall’s food court felt deserted Monday, the first day it reopened to the public.

Some restaurants enforced social distancing measures of 6 feet between guests, but some groups still formed in the food court. A line of 16 people, most without masks and standing close together, developed at Asian Chao Teriyaki Grill around 2 p.m.

Calhoun Outlet Marketplace and North Georgia Premium Outlets, both Simon properties, opened Friday.

Other centers that reopened Friday include Douglasville’s Arbor Place Mall, Southlake Mall in Morrow, the Forum on Peachtree Parkway, The Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta in Woodstock and The Avenues at West Cobb, East Cobb and Peachtree City.

Read the original story on AJC.com.