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Common areas had little traffic. — Photo by Jack Weatherly

Northpark Mall becomes a hall of echoes during pandemic

The Northpark mall parking lot had only a few vehicles on Saturday, usually a busy shopping day. — Photo by Jack Weatherly

By JACK WEATHERLY

You could play Frisbee golf in the biggest mall in Mississippi.

There was virtually no business going on Saturday afternoon in the 958,000-square-foot mall on the Ridgeland side of County Line Road.

Many of the mall’s 92 tenants were closed due to the corona virus pandemic. Others were open but had few customers.

Dillard’s was open but there were only a handful of shoppers. The other two anchors, Belk and J.C. Penney, were closed.

An exception was Manolo’s barber shop.

All of the shop’s barber chairs were in use on the first day that owner Dontrail Ellis reopened after closing for a week.

Ellis said that his barbers were initially frightened by the viral outbreak, but now, with an understanding of precautionary measures to be taken, business has returned.

Those measures include hand washing with soap and water before and after cutting hair and disinfecting tools and chairs before and after cutting hair.

Most of the customers make appointments with barbers, Ellis said.

After the interview with Ellis for this article, Ellis texted that “I’m shutting down. I can’t do it.”

Asked several times by voicemail and text why, he did not answer, only citing what the mall asks of its tenants during the pandemic, which is posted on the mall website.

Sales tax receipts will, of course, be affected by the curtailment of business at Northpark and the Renaissance at Colony Park, the other major retail outlet in the city of Ridgeland.

Mayor Gene McGee said Monday that the impact on sales tax revenue won’t be known till last in April.

Meantime, the city is being conservative in budgeting, McGee said.

McGee predicted a robust rebound after the corona virus cloud is lifted, though there is no consensus on when that might be.

Northpark has reduced its hours to 11 a.m. till 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon till 6 p.m. on Sunday.

A statement from Christy Pender, director of marketing and development for the mall issued last week follows:

As the community continues to closely monitor the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, we continue to work in tandem with the City of Ridgeland, the State of Mississippi, and health organizations to monitor the evolving situation …. Out of an abundance of caution, all events and programming have been cancelled through May 15.”

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About Jack Weatherly