Store owners cautious as retail allowed to reopen

For the first time in more than a month, Retail business in Florida started opening their doors again Monday, as Governor DeSantis' phase one of reopening the began.

Tampa Premium Outlets and Tyron Square Mall, both Simon-owned properties, reopened Monday. International Mall in Tampa is going to open Wednesday and Westshore Mall will be back in business Friday. All Westfield malls in the Tampa Bay area will reopen May 15.

For now, stores can only operate at 25 percent indoor capacity.

"This is going to be a roll-out over a couple of phases. To start out, we're going to be extra cautious," said Jamie Zimbleman, Marketing Director for Westshore Mall. "Obviously we're going to be practicing social distancing. We're going to be limiting capacity to 25 percent. It'll be up to the individual stores to police that in their stores."

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Zimbleman said his mall will eliminate most of the common-area seating. Employees will also be wearing masks and encouraging customers to do the same.

Smaller businesses can also reopen. Jennifer Dutkowsky, who owns Why Not and Why Tots Boutiques on Bay to Bay Boulevard in Tampa plans to open up next week, but on a by-appointment-only basis.

Dutkowsky said she'll also use a 200-degree steamer on anything that is handled or returned.

"You can't touch everything. You can't wander around, which kind of takes the fun out of shopping boutique and shopping in-store. But it's kind of where we feel that is the safest for everybody right now," she said.

Dutkowsky said she feels fortunate she was able to survive after the Coronavirus pandemic forced her business to shut down. She quickly launched a website and temporarily became an online-only store.

"Business has been great. We've been very lucky to be able to get online, to social sell, all of that. So our month last month was comparable to the month of April in 2019," she said, adding she's looking forward to seeing her customers in person again. "Reopening would be great. We miss people. We miss having people come in the store. I love talking to people, but from a business perspective, we're surviving."