Greg Lawless of St. Simons Island and Sharon Alley of Jacksonville looked for coffee at St. Johns Town Center as it prepared to open May 4 so they could get to know one another.
It was the first date for Lawless, an IT professional, and Alley, a Baptist South registered nurse who works the night shift in ER.
They met on Match.com and chose the Town Center for an outdoor walk. They met at 10 a.m. and strolled the length of the center.
By 10:30 a.m. at the south end of the center, they hadn’t figured out their lunch plans.
“Coffee first,” Alley said.
They scored coffee later when Alley ordered it online from Panera Bread for takeout because Starbucks and Barnes & Noble were closed.
At 12:40 p.m., Lawless and Alley sat talking and laughing outside Maggiano’s Little Italy, one of the few restaurants open for dining in. They figured they would probably eat there.
St. Johns Town Center, the area’s major regional shopping area at Interstate 295 and Butler Boulevard, opened at 11 a.m., but relatively few stores opened and those that did asked customers to follow social distancing rules and several required that guests wear face masks.
Some retailers kept doors locked to allow customers in only when capacity allowed.
Shoppers arrived, but plenty of parking remained at noon, both in the lots and along the main street. Visitors asked others along the sidewalks which stores were open. Patricia Gundy of Jacksonville waited outside Bath & Body Works to replenish her lemon hand soaps, but it remained closed.
In addition to Maggiano’s, restaurants on the center’s main street open for lunch included J. Alexander and Cantina Laredo. The Capital Grille planned to open for dinner.
True Food Kitchen will open May 8 for curbside pickup and delivery, like many restaurants already do.
Department store anchors Nordstrom and Dillard’s remained closed, while Dick’s Sporting Goods had been open as had other sporting goods stores around town.
The Disney store was closed, which meant 5 1/2-year-old Jared Wood who visited with his mother, Scarlett Wood, couldn’t score the Star Wars key they came for to celebrate Star Wars Day.
His sorcerer’s cape and magic wand might make the next visit more successful.