Crowds descend on Dartmouth Mall for reopening weekend

Jun 13, 2020

For the first time since mid-March, the Dartmouth Mall is back in business.

On reopening weekend, customers lined up six feet apart outside store entrances at the popular hangout spot to buy things in person for the first time in three months.

“It feels like reality is coming back,” said Dartmouth resident Ciara Mary, who was waiting in line outside Burlington on Saturday to get some clothes for work. “It’s just getting back to the normal routine...I used to come to the mall every single day, because I used to work here. But it feels good.”

The line of Burlington customers stretched all the way up the side of the building on both Friday and Saturday as shoppers waited to buy items at 25-50 percent off in a company-wide reopening sale.

An employee could be heard telling customers that at worst, the wait could be up to 2.5 hours just to get into the store, with another hour or two to get to the register inside.

District Manager Jana Minio said that everyone at Burlington was “super excited” to be open again. “I think people are just excited to be out of their houses,” she added.

The store is allowing just 200 people, or 40 percent of capacity, inside. “We’re just trying to keep it safe to shop,” Minio said.

Fairhaven resident Cathy Coffey was waiting for over an hour just to return a bag she bought in early March.

Coffey said that the isolation was particularly hard for her because her daughter passed away.

“Just being stuck inside, we couldn’t be together as a family,” she said. “So yeah, I’m happy to be out, get some sun!”

Lines were a common sight inside the mall too, where customers queued outside Foot Locker, Hollister, and Bath and Body Works for up to 20 minutes. 

Bath and Body Works manager Lexi Carreiro said that she was only letting ten people into the store at a time — but they kept coming. 

“The line explains itself,” she laughed, indicating customers waiting patiently outside the store. “It’s been crazy!”

Other stores, like Macy’s and J.C. Penney, remained closed, although both will be open by Wednesday according to mall owner Preit’s Marketing Director Beth Zager.

Zager said that the company is taking a number of steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including limiting the number of shoppers and offering sanitizing stations throughout the building.

Food court and other common area seating has been removed, the play area will stay closed until further notice, and the whole building will be regularly cleaned with disinfectant, among other safety measures.

Mall hours will be limited from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays, Zager said, adding that opening day on Friday went “great.”

“We were happy to see our shoppers back and they were happy to be back,” she said.

New Bedford resident Katie Amaral said that it felt “good, but scary” to be back out shopping in public. “We’ve got to get back to society some time,” she noted.

Meanwhile Danielle Spink of New Bedford bought some flip-flops and a t-shirt with her four-year-old son Jayce Diaz for a family vacation to Florida starting on Sunday. 

“I couldn’t wait for shipping,” she said with a laugh.

As a nurse, she noted, she felt safe enough at the mall. “Everybody’s pretty much wearing their masks, staying apart as much as possible,” she said.

And despite the long wait times, shoppers seemed excited to be back at the mall.

Veronica and Cynthia D’Almeida of New Bedford said that they were happy with their shopping trip after spending nearly three hours at Burlington. 

“We did get a lot of stuff,” said Veronica as she loaded up the car with home decor goods.

Minio said that she has gotten no complaints from Burlington customers. “So far, so good,” she said, as an employee nearby added, “They’re always smiling when they come out.”