ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Simon Property Group, the largest owner of shopping malls in the nation, closed all of its malls starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, a release said.
The release announced that after extensive discussions with federal, state and local officials and in recognition of the need to address the spread of COVID-19, Simon was closing all of its retail properties, including Malls, Premium Outlets and Mills in the U.S.
The malls will be closed from Wednesday until March 29.
“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said David Simon, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Simon.
There are three local Simon Malls in the Northeast Florida area:
Store owners at the St. Augustine Premium Outlets told News4Jax the closing will be devastating for the businesses there.
“Obviously, me and our employees are out of money. What do we do?” said Michael Hunt, co-owner of St. Augustine Soap Company. “For the most part, all the young ladies who work for us are single moms. What are they going to do? In the meantime, we’re cutting paychecks as long as we can but there’s only so much money to go around.”
Shoppers scrambled to get to the stores before they closed at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s kind of sad because it seems like the economy kind of needs us to kind of come together and spend the things that we’re supposed to spend vacation time for," said Peter Harris, a shopper who was on vacation. "And this is spring break, a lot of people wanted to go places and do things, and now we’re kind of restricted.”
In the meantime, Hunt said the St. Augustine Soap Company is turning to online options.
“We’re shipping online for folks, and for everybody that’s buying online, we’re giving them a free item to cover shipping costs," Hunt said. “Obviously, soap is something people need still, but just like everyone else, we’re being shut down.”
For more information about the mall closures, click here.