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Now open, Western New York malls face challenges due to COVID-19

While many of the shops are back up and running, you'll also see signs at certain stores, notifying customers that they plan to open at a later date.

NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. — A sure sign of Western New York's reopening is several malls welcoming shoppers for the first time in months.

Still, some are facing unique challenges in reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, 2 On Your Side visited the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls for a look at its reopening. 

Shoppers are required to wear face coverings, except for those with underlying health conditions and children younger than 2 years old.  

While many of the shops are back up and running, you'll also see signs at certain stores, notifying customers that they plan to open at a later date.

According to the website, the air filters throughout the center’s air conditioning system have been upgraded, consistent with New York State guidelines, in addition to enhancing cleaning procedures.

John Percy, the president and CEO of Destination Niagara USA, said the reopening of the outlets will be an important piece of the puzzle to bring back the local tourism industry, which has been hard hit by the pandemic.

Percy said, “We are very pleased to have that back into our mix of things to do and see and experience.”

However, he told 2 On Your Side restrictions at the border continue to pose a challenge.

“When you look at Canada, even though it is an international market, we truly treat it like neighbors in our neighborhood, and they’re a big part of their market and their customer base," Percy said.

He added that last year, even with exchange rate, Canadians spent about $59 million on goods and services in Niagara County just through Visa cards.

“That’s a lot of money, and I would think a good portion of that is spent at that outlet mall on goods and services," Percy said.

We know other malls in the area are also now welcoming back customers. For example, the Walden Galleria the Boulevard Mall and the McKinley Mall.

Percy said the heavy rain on Saturday may have actually played in their favor. 

"When you have inclement weather, shopping always rises to the top," Percy said. 

Click below for a look at what stores and restaurants are open at some of the shopping centers locally:

On the Boulevard Mall website, there is a note to, "Please call each store directly prior to visiting as each business is working hard to open as quickly but as safely as possible."

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