SHORT HILLS, NJ — In the lower level of the Short Hills Mall, a new pop up store is selling masks, hand sanitizer and other essential sanitary gear in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as store owner Eric Markowitz said, he hopes that his store will not have to be around for much longer, as his closure would mean that the pandemic is finally under control. In the meantime, his store remains open, and masks are even sewn on the premises, in order to cut out the middle man.

As Markowitz explained, the Short Hills store is actually the third location that he and his business partners have opened.

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"My partners created this in Miami, that was the first store, Markowitz said. "Then we went on to open one in King of Prussia [Mall], and this is the third one."

He said that they took the info from opening the other two stores to "pick the best of the best" in masks and other supplies, so that they know they are giving people the best bang for their buck.

Outside the store, as Markowitz was interviewed, shoppers passed by, masks on their faces in compliance with state orders. However, he said that with residents in this area having seen the effects of the first spike, getting them to properly mask up and avoid spreading the virus is an easier proposition in New Jersey.

"I think that we were the first ones, in the Northeast, that had to deal with this issue in the States," Markowitz said. "And I think we learned something that the rest of the country didn't feel, didn't see. By the lesson that we learned, we were able to be one step ahead of everyone else in the country."

One of those customers was Linda Rubin. Rubin, hailing from Weehawken by way of Scotch Plains, was browsing around the mall, and stopped into the store to look for masks before purchasing a few.

"It was very interesting because there's all the things that I would need for this pandemic," Rubin said. "And I had a choice of very attractive-looking masks."

"I have those moments when I'm not in the store," Rubin said. "I didn't think of it when I was in the store, but yes, it's kind of strange that there is a need for a store like that. But it's good to go in and actually see what you're purchasing, as opposed to going online and not seeing what you're getting."

And as for Markowitz, he reiterated a simple message when asked for any final thoughts. "Mask up and put me out of business," he said.

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