CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Charleston Town Center reopened Thursday for the first time in about two months under guidelines provided by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
Charleston Town Center mall reopened Tuesday on limited hours to allow for cleaning and social distancing.
Customers lined up outside the mall doors ahead of its opening on reduced hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The new hours allow for cleaning and increased social distancing.
Mall leaders said around a dozen stores and restaurants were able to reopen on Thursday since three days was not enough lead time for businesses to prepare to reopen.
"It is a gradual reopening and a measured reopening because the top priority for Charleston Town Center is the health and welfare and well-being of our guests, employees and merchants," Town Center consultant Lisa McCracken said.
McCracken said more stores will open this weekend and into next week as they install protective equipment, put social distancing marks on the floors and rehire employees that were furloughed during the closure.
One store to reopen was Adams' Hallmark. Its employees returned to work on Monday and began the long process of preparing the store to welcome back customers.
"We have reset our displays and brought in new merchandise to get ready because when we left off, we left off with Easter, so it kind of jumps straight from Easter into graduation and Father’s Day," store manager Kim Arthur said. "Everybody has jumped in and helped. We have been here long hours and got it all put together."
Arthur said the store was full of customers throughout the day, with a line forming outside when it reached the 10-customer capacity. All but one of the store's employees returned to work, allowing staff to keep a social distance from each other while working the entrance, cash register and floor.
"I don’t see a lot of people out and I don’t see a lot of problems," shopper Sharon Guest said. "I think the merchants are really glad to see us out and so I want to support the community and start the economy back."
Guest said she was disappointed in the lack of open stores as they restock following the long shutdown.
Among the stores remaining closed is J.C. Penney. The national department store filed for bankruptcy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and McCracken said the mall has not received any word on if or when its location could reopen.
"Charleston Town Center continues to put their best foot forward in bringing retailers, merchants and a variety of small shops, boutiques and dining options for the community," McCracken said. "It will be a gradual process that will bring on some new retailers, as well as gradually reopen the existing ones and the favorites that many people have."
The mall has staff constantly moving around cleaning all surfaces including railings, chairs and trashcans. Doors and stairways have also been limited to one way travel to keep people apart, and escalators have tape marks every 6 feet to ensure proper social distancing.
"We also want to remember the importance of wearing masks or face coverings as we not only think about our own health and safety but the health and safety of our other colleagues and residents," McCracken said.
The Charleston Town Center website will be providing updates on when each store and restaurant sets its reopening and new hours. McCracken said most businesses will open by the end of next week.