The Maine Mall plans to reopen Monday with new rules in place, but the majority of its stores are expected to remain closed, and the mall’s manager does not anticipate a large influx of shoppers.

Shoppers at the South Portland indoor retail center will be asked to wear face masks, smaller stores will have limits on the number of shoppers allowed, and hours will be reduced as the mall reopens after weeks of being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 20 percent of the roughly 100 stores in the mall are expected to reopen Monday, said Craig Gorris, the general manager of the mall, which is owned by the New York-based commercial real estate management firm Brookfield Properties.

Gorris said he sent out a survey about reopening to the mall’s retailers Wednesday and 17 said they planned to reopen. He believes between 15 and 25 will actually open their doors Monday, when most retailers are being allowed to do business again under Gov. Janet Mills’ reopening plan.

He said among the larger “anchor” stores, Macy’s department store is alone in planning to reopen fully on Monday. Electronics retailer Best Buy will continue its current policy of curbside pickup and shopping in the store by appointment only, Gorris said, and the J.C. Penney and Sears department stores have not indicated when they plan to reopen.

Two weeks ago, the 118-year-old, Texas-based J. C. Penney Company Inc. declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, becoming the fourth major retail chain owner to do so this year. Chapter 11 is when a company plans to continue operating while restructuring its debt. Still, the chain is expected to permanently close nearly 250 of its stores. The specific locations have not been announced.


Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm, predicted in a report last month that more than 50 percent of all mall-based department stores will shut down by the end of 2021, The Associated Press reported. The firm expects that J. C. Penney eventually will liquidate its business, noting that downsizing the company won’t solve its main problems.

A Macy’s spokeswoman declined Friday to discuss the company’s plans for specific stores. She said stores would comply with state and federal guidelines on how to operate once they reopen.

Gorris said changes to how the mall operates will be apparent as soon as shoppers arrive, with doors left open so people don’t have to touch door handles. Entry and exit doors will be clearly marked, he said, and signs and regular announcements over the mall’s public address system will remind shoppers to comply with physical distancing guidelines of at least 6 feet between people.

An empty parking lot is reflected in the window of J.C. Penney at The Maine Mall on Thursday. The mall will reopen Monday, but many of its stores will stay closed, including J.C. Penney. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Friday afternoon, Mills modified her reopening orders to say that beginning June 5 people will be required to wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible. Gorris said the mall will update its signage to reflect the new state requirements, but he declined to comment on whether the mall’s security personnel would require shoppers to leave if they refused to wear face coverings. Gorris did say mall staff will monitor conditions to make sure physical distancing is being maintained.

The mall’s hours also are being trimmed. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Before the pandemic, the mall was open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The mall reduced its hours before shutting down completely on March 23. In the preceding days, many stores had closed, with most saying they planned to reopen at the end of March.


Tables and chairs have been removed from the mall’s food court, and restaurants are being told that their meals should be offered for takeout only, Gorris said.

“We’re not encouraging anyone to come here and sit and eat,” he said.

Elsewhere in the mall, “soft seating” – mostly small couches in common areas outside the stores – is being reduced. In places where there might have been four or five couches, Gorris said, there are likely to be just one or two now.

He said the company has removed vending machines and set up 14 hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the mall, and that it is trying to procure more of them. Two sanitizing stations, where shoppers without masks or gloves can obtain them, will be set up as well, Gorris said.

“We’re trying to make the environment as touch-free as possible,” he said.

In smaller stores, no more than five shoppers will be allowed at a time, and store employees will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining that limit.

The mall also will close its doors if it becomes too crowded, but Gorris said that hasn’t been an issue at other reopened malls owned by Brookfield, or at malls owned by other companies.

“We will take the necessary steps to handle it” if the number of shoppers is more than expected, he said.

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