If retail in Batavia is any indication, some of your favorite stores in Western New York may not open even after phase two begins.
Stores in Batavia and elsewhere in the Finger Lakes region were given the go-ahead to reopen Friday after closing in March due to the coronavirus. Still, many of them had not done so by Monday afternoon.
Several popular national chains remained closed in Batavia on Monday, including Kohl's, Marshalls, Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabric.
Other stores that had reopened were surprisingly empty, even for a Monday. There were just handfuls of cars scattered throughout the shopping strip's parking lot, and no stores had come close to meeting the state's new 50% occupancy requirement.
Phase two is on track to begin in Western New York Tuesday.
GameStop remain closed except for curbside pickup Monday, saying the store did not have enough staff to reopen. Salesman Maxwell Goll said he is happy the store is sticking with curbside pickup rather than fully reopening, believing it is easier to manage exposure to the coronavirus that way.
Customers in Batavia were confused by retailers' patchwork reopening timelines.
"I didn't even realize it was open until I drove by and saw the light on," said Darlene King of Leroy, at Shoe Dept.
A small sign on the door at Shoe Dept. read: "Come on in we have miss you! Please make sure your mask is on." But it competed with large signs on other stores calling attention to curbside pickup services, which were still available at most of the closed stores Monday.
With two customers browsing Shoe Dept., a worker there said the store had been busier Friday and Saturday, but nothing like the crush of customers seen in elsewhere in the country.
That was fine by her, since the store's two workers were responsible for counting customers as they came in and left, to make sure there were never more than 18 people in the store at one time. That was while sanitizing between each customer, keeping the store clean and organized and helping shoppers.
Stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states reopened to large, eager crowds, drawing lines that often spilled out onto the sidewalks and around buildings. Stores let shoppers in the door as others cashed out and left, in order to meet occupancy requirements.
A sign at Rent-A-Center announced that only 10 customers were allowed into the store at once, and reminded shoppers to keep their distance from one another. That was unnecessary Monday afternoon, as there were no shoppers in the store.
Connie King of Batavia (no relation to Darlene King), were among just three parties of shoppers in Petco Monday. She loves to browse and shop, and has missed visiting stores, she said.
She's still getting used to the new regulations, however.
"People were giving me dirty looks in Walmart and I was thinking, 'Did I do something wrong?' Then a guy said, 'You're going the wrong way,' and I realized there was an arrow on the floor," she said, referring to arrows that have been placed on floors to direct traffic and ease congestion.
Those decals are part of the state's guidelines aimed at helping retailers reopen safely. Aside from that, stores in Batavia had Plexiglas or other types of barriers at registers. Workers wore masks, hand sanitizer was plentiful and signs reminded customers to keep physically distanced.
Among the new rules, retailers are allowed to refuse merchandise returns and have been required to close fitting rooms.
Dick's was still taking returns Monday, which drew Amanda Murray to the store. She returned a pair of shorts, but she didn't make a new purchase since she wasn't able to try anything on.
Johnny Watts, 40, of Batavia had been to Dick's on Sunday for a new pair of sneakers, but he returned Monday with his family to buy fishing tackle. Fishing would help him fill time until he can return to his job in the auto body industry, he said. His daughter Nevaeh, 14, was disappointed Five Below was closed, because she was hoping to buy some acrylic nails to hold her over until nail salons reopened.
The family saw shopping as a welcome respite from many weeks spent indoors, leaving just to go to their home's porch, deck or gazebo.
"I don't really need to buy anything, I've just been stuck in the house so long," said Jessica Pfenninger, 37, Nevaeh's mom.
Kohl's has reopened stores in other states that have allowed it to do so, but its store in the Batavia shopping center is not one of them.
TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods have already reopened 1,600 of its stores around the globe, but it does not expect to have all of the remaining 2,900 locations up and running until the end of June, according to parent company TJX Cos., in its most recent fiscal report.
Kohl's, J.C. Penney and TJX stores will open early and offer special hours devoted to seniors and shoppers with underlying health issues that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Many stores in Batavia altered their hours to better manage customer traffic and staffing; store owners in Western New York are expected to do the same. Others remained open by appointment only. Some stores in Western New York, including home store Room on Hertel Avenue, said they will continue to operate by appointment as well.
On Friday, the state released a list of rules and guidelines tailored to phase two businesses, including retail.
The Finger Lakes region, which is home to Batavia, includes Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. The Central New York, North Country, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions were also given permission to reopen Friday.
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