EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - I rode on Macy's escalator Monday. It was actually a bit of a thrill after spending four non-retail months outside the Brunswick Square Mall, as a well-fed, well-housed, "prisoner" of the COVID-19 pandemic here in suburban New Jersey. On June 15, Macy's re-opened at the mall, and I just had to have a look. I have almost completed my therapy to rid myself of my addiction to impulse buying, something that is not quite the same when sitting at the computer. To me, the mall had been shut down, but to many who work there or who use the space for public service, it never really closed at all.
In the past few months, the Brunswick Square Mall has been a place for charity and public service, a place for an evolving view of restaurants and retail sales, and a public space for charity and community support.
There has been curbside and ordering service from Panera Bread, where customers can also buy some groceries. (I scored some fresh avocados last week.)
Bar Louie has extended the menu for pickup and catering, too. As of the June 15, they have also been able to provide more tables for outside service. Red Robin is open for catering and pickup, too.
The mall parking lot was the site of the gathering of first responder vehicles and mourners following the death of Corrections Officer to Nelson Perdomo in April when hundreds created a funeral cortège to drive by the officer's home after he died from the COVID-19 during the height of the virus's impact on New Jersey.
There was a blood and plasma drive run By Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health which supported the increased need during the pandemic. In all, 70 donors registered, donating 52 whole pints of blood. There were 6 apheresis donors who produced 5 units of platelets, 6 units of red blood cells, and three units of plasma. additionally, 22 unnits of plasma were donated. "The blood drive will impact almost 100 patients," said RWJBH staff. Mall personnel, including General Manager Ron Lichtenberger, participated in the drive, too.
Then there were the food drives, which are still going on outside Panera. John Gallo, owner and operator of Results Boxing and Fitness, arranged for 15 large boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to be shared with the Aldersgate Outreach Community Center for families in East Brunswick.
Supported by the East Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce, students from East Brunswick High School continue to conduct an ongoing "Battle of the Classes" food drive to support MCFOODS, the Middlesex County Food Bank, that will last through Saturday, June 27.
And then this week, Macy's opened!
The store is bright and shiny, with all surfaces gleaming. There is a new Customer Service desk on the first floor near the main entrance on Route 18. All staff is masked up and the aisles are a bit wider, providing a better opportunity to maintain social distancing. And, just to let you know, the hot color is apparently apricot or coral or salmon or whatever it goes by this year. The clothes on display are awash with it.
Trying cosmetics? Forget about it. Have to touch everything before you buy it? Try to resist doing that. Shopping is available, but it will be a bit different during this relaxed shutdown.
On June 29, says Governor Murphy today, the rest of the mall will be open for pandemic-compliant shopping. Let's see what this new evolution brings us, not the full gamut exactly. No movies yet. More open space. Restricted inside eating at food spots.
The Brunswick Square mall, like other shopping centers across New Jersey, is transitioning into a new version of what a retail environment will be like in suburbia. For the past four months, though, it has not lain dormant. It has continued to be part of East Brunswick by playing a role in helping a community meet the needs of its people.