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story.lead_photo.caption Shoppers socially distance Saturday while standing in line for Ross Dress for Less at Capital Mall. The clothing store reopened Wednesday and has closed down all its entrances except this one to monitor the comings and goings of its customers to maintain a lower occupancy. Photo by Liv Paggiarino / News Tribune.

The Capital Mall was cautiously quiet Saturday as people ventured into stores, a welcoming sight compared to the deserted hallways and closed shops last month.

Despite some stores remaining closed, most businesses at Capital Mall reopened earlier this month, and they have been keeping busy.

Since reopening May 4, business has been non-stop at Head Lines Salon, owner Brad Lee said.

After closing March 16, Lee let clients reschedule on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Now, the salon is booked through June.

"We have just been solid every single day," Lee said. "God worked in some great ways behind the scenes here."

Despite the hiatus, Lee said he was "blessed" clients waited until the salon reopened instead of going to a different salon or doing their haircuts themselves.

"I haven't had any trainwrecks come in here yet where they just really did something to their hair," Lee joked as his client chuckled.

Near Head Lines Salon, Ross Dress for Less had a line as people waiting to enter the store after the business reopened on Wednesday, manager Casey Smith said.

"It's just nice to be back open and having customers flowing through," Smith said.

Ross Dress for Less temporarily closed in late March.

Employees must wear face masks and the company encourages customers to wear them too, Smith said. The store also contains one-way aisles to ensure limited interactions among customers.

Foot traffic has been steady at Downtown Books II and Play 2 Learn too, manager Beth Elliott said.

The businesses reopened May 4 after closing in late March.

Elliott said she was pleased both businesses reopened, especially since the employees enjoy the face-to-face interactions with customers.

"We have missed people and we see a few more people everyday and that's really a terrific thing," Elliott said.

Business was slow at first, she said, but traffic has increased over the last few weeks. Once more businesses reopen, Elliott said she hopes to see more foot traffic.

In the meantime, Downtown Books II and Play 2 Learn have limited hours and employees are restricting the number of people in the store to ensure social distancing. Employees must also wear face masks, and both locations have clear barriers at the cash registers.

Other businesses at the Capital Mall, including Epoch Escapes, are open by appointment only.

Epoch Escapes reopened May 4 after it closed in late March. Since reopening, the escape room business has had about 20 appointments, owner Dustin Copple said.

Copple decided to reopen by appointment only since the business doesn't have as many employees now.

"It's one of those situations where, to bring them back, I wouldn't be able to give them nearly the number of hours as what they would need to justify coming back to the job," he said. "Until I can offer more again, I'm running the business by myself."

Since reopening, Copple wears a face mask and sanitizes the escape rooms before the next appointment.

While business owners and managers said they were happy to reopen, many added the closures created financial strains.

"We hope to recoup it — as hopeful as we can be — but realistically, I think we'll be doing well just to maintain what we did relative to last year," Copple said. "As long as we can keep on track there, I will be happy."

Instead of hoping to recoup funds, Elliott said, Downtown Books II and Play 2 Learn will most likely write off April.

"It's unprecedented because we certainly would not have closed for that amount of time for any other reason," she said. "Obviously it's going to affect our sales, but hopefully, by late June or July, we'll start seeing days like we were having before the shutdown."

It helped Capital Mall was understanding the situation too, Lee said.

"They've been wonderful in letting us get in here early before the actual mall opens so we can get our businesses running," he said. "Donna Vail is the general manager of the mall, and she's been wonderful to work with. Whatever we needed, she's been right there with us."

Rob Kingsbury, of Farmer Holding Company, whose subsidiary F&F Development owns Capital Mall, did not return the News Tribune's request for comment.

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