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Traffic was light at the Renaissance at Colony Park on Wednesday afternoon. — Photo by Jack Weatherly

Shops, restaurants at Renaissance try new ways to survive

Morgan Brashier (left), a manager at Biaggis restaurant at the Renaissance, hands a meal to Charlie Jones. — Photo by Jack Weatherly

By JACK WEATHERLY

Our usual advertising theme is ‘your dining and shopping destination.’”

Now we say: ‘We’re your curbside dining and shopping destination,’” Jan Mattiace jokingly said in an interview on Wednesday.

But the corona virus epidemic’s disruption of commerce and just about everything else in the country and world, is no joke, Mattiace said.

Many retailers across the nation have closed, with undetermined plans for the future.

But many others are thinking creatively, said Mattiace, marketing and communications director for Mattiace Properties, which is a developer and managing partner of the Renaissance at Colony Park.

The closing of the Apple store in Renaissance was the first warning for the lifestyle mall in Ridgeland.

The wave of limited hours and numbers of people and “social distancing” ordered by local and federal authorities has forced a change, for the meantime anyway, of business models, Mattiace continued.

Barnette’s Salon, for example, is for now selling products curbside while, the beauty care, of course, has been halted.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers is still allowing people into the store, but it is now offering curbside service, Mattiace said.

Clothiers are doing business by appointment only.

Restaurants are operating curbside – sometimes literally. “Some people don’t even want to roll down their window down,” Mattiace said.

Morgan Brashier

Morgan Brashier, a manager at Biaggi’s Italiano Ristorante, said the eatery, which has been in operation at the mall since 2007 as one of its first businesses, also uses two delivery services, Waitr and DoorDash.

Things are “going as good as one could expect,” since the restaurant changed its operations last Thursday, Brashier said. All hourly workers were let go and he and other members of management are handling service duties.

Zea Rotisserie and Bar revamped its operation on Tuesday, offering call-ahead curbside service, catering, delivery by DoorDash, and “drive-through,” whereby a motorist can just drive up and order. Hours have been shorted to noon till 8 p.m., to allow time for disinfecting all surfaces.

Manager Amy Loving said Zea is still offering about 80 percent of its full menu, plus a new offering, “bundled” family meals.

Koestler Prime started offering to-go orders and deliveries on Thursday. Owner Scott Koestler said in a chance curbside interview: “Experience has taught me to keep a healthy balance sheet.”

Mattiace said the mall has about 70 tenants. “The majority of our locals [as opposed to national] are in some form of operation.”

That may mean appointments or relying on gift cards, which are “a big deal” to help maintain cash flow, she said. Red Square is offering discounted gift cards, for example, she said.

Some shops have collaborated.

The Whimsy Cookie Co. and Gifts by KPEP, which is also an event planner, for instance worked a deal for St. Patrick’s Day, she said. Green balloons and green cookies all in one package for family celebrations since public gatherings of large crowds are banned for now.

Mattiace wondered aloud whether retailers might take the hard lessons from dealing with the epidemic and rethink their businesses for the future.

Yeah, we’re all looking for a silver lining in this dark cloud.”

» EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series about how retailers and shopping centers are adjusting to the crisis brought on by the corona virus pandemic.

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About Jack Weatherly