LA Retailers Can Now Reopen, But Business Is Slow And Many Are Still Closed

Many L.A. retailers were slow to reopen, even after getting official permission. Those that did reopen were not greeted with a rush of customers. (David Wagner/KPCC)

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L.A. County health officials gave many retailers the green light to reopen for in-store shopping on Wednesday.

But most retailers were not quick to open their doors. The few that did were greeted with slow foot traffic.

"It's not going to go back to normal anytime soon," said Lara Tatikian, general manager of the small, family-owned soccer store ProSoccer in Pasadena.

One block south from ProSoccer, Old Town Pasadena's main commercial strip along Colorado Boulevard was still a retail ghost town.

But Tatikian said her family had been ready to reopen their store as soon as they got permission. ProSoccer's online sales have picked up lately, she said. But in-person sales are normally a huge chunk of their business.

"To get a good feel for the product, sometimes walk-in business is a must," she said.


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ProSoccer is allowing customers back inside the store with some key changes. Everyone is required to wear a mask. People are expected to stay six feet apart. And no more than 10 customers can be inside the store at any given time.

That new limit wasn't an issue on Wednesday. Tatikian said they only got two customers in their first three hours of reopening.

"We want to follow all the rules and be cautious about everything," she said. "It's going to be a slow transition. But we're just excited to be back."

Lara Tatikian stands outside her family-owned business ProSoccer, which was allowed to reopen for the first time in months on Wed., May 27. (David Wagner/KPCC)

CUSTOMERS TRICKLING BACK

ProSoccer has already started contacting customers to let them know about the reopening. That drew Pasadena soccer fan Andrew Jackson back to the store to get some patches heat-pressed onto his jerseys.

"I actually got a text this morning," Jackson said. "I was just out running some errands, so I thought I'd come by and see what was up."

Others were surprised to find that ProSoccer was open. Roxanne Pipkin Tamayo drove there to pick up a birthday gift she had purchased online for her twins. She expected to do a curbside pick-up, but then found out she could walk right into the store.

"It was very much a surprise. I did not know that retail businesses were open," Pipkin Tamayo said.

The transaction was quick and felt safe, she said. But she didn't stick around.

"I probably will not be shopping like this — going into a retail store and browsing," she said.

A 'SYMBOLIC' REOPENING

L.A. County health officials are still ordering many businesses to remain closed for now, including bars, gyms, movie theaters and hair and nail salons.

But even with the county's blessing to reopen, many retailers are still shuttered.

Some larger shopping malls say they will reopen soon. The Citadel Outlets in Commerce announced it will reopen Thursday with new safety measures in place, though individual shops there will make their own decision on when to reopen.

Westfield says it will reopen most of its Southern California shopping centers on June 3, with the exception of its Century City mall, which will reopen on Saturday, May 30.

For smaller businesses, the decision to reopen doesn't always come with high expectations for sales.

"It is somewhat symbolic, knowing that you're not going to have a lot of customers coming in that door," said Jon Goldfarb, who re-opened his vintage watch store Second Time Around in Beverly Hills on Wednesday.

Goldfarb's store now requires mask-wearing and social distancing. Hand sanitizer and sneeze guards are in place for additional protection. For now, Goldfarb is allowing no more than three customers inside his small shop at any given time — a limit he hadn't reached by Wednesday afternoon.

Goldfarb said most of the day's customers were just coming by to pick up watches they had sent in for repair. But he felt it was important to send a message that business in the city is starting to resume after months of closures.

"It's kind of mixed feelings," Goldfarb said. "I want to be able to pay my employees, pay my rent and provide service to our customers. On the other hand, you're a little apprehensive because you don't want to contribute to the further spread of this."