“Frustrated? I felt beyond frustrated. I felt sick to my stomach,” Marlene Gigliotti said standing outside of the Walden Galleria.
Gigliotti owns Euphoria Salon and Spa located inside the mall. It’s one of some 200 businesses impacted by the state's decision to not allow malls to re-open in Phase IV over concerns of spreading COVID 19.
“I don’t know where it leaves me as far as what to expect,” she said.
State Assemblywoman Monica Wallace said she wants to see the data that proves malls pose an increased risk over other retail stores already open.
“If there’s science supporting this decision, then fine. But, I just don’t see how it exists, and I think we need to govern from data and not from opinions,” said Wallace.
The mall’s closure continues to be a burden on the local economy. In 2019, it generated more than $36 million in local and state sales tax revenue. close to $5 million went directly to the Town of Cheektowaga where the mall is located.
“They not only visit the mall but after the mall, they visit some establishments right around there. So, it has a huge effect on our entire town,” said Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski.
For mall store owners like Marlene Gigliotti, she thinks a reopening date is a reasonable request. Her financial recovery depends on it.
“We are applying for loans, but for us to recover, it’s going to take 18 months to three years.”
The Walden Galleria does have a safety plan in place once it is allowed to reopen. It includes touch-less entry, a one direction flow of traffic in its halls, and ensuring all employees and shoppers wear masks.