Increased vacancies on Downtown Mall causes concern for Charlottesville businesses

Increased vacancies on Downtown Mall causes concern for Charlottesville businesses
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall looks a lot different than it did a year ago, as businesses are being forced to relocate or close for good in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall looks a lot different than it did a year ago, as businesses are being forced to relocate or close for good in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown that followed.

At least a dozen storefronts stand vacant on the Mall, even as shoppers return looking for a slice of normal life. Those shoppers might find their favorite yoga studio, clothing boutique, or upscale restaurant closed for good.

While many businesses were able to stay afloat by shifting to online sales, offering to-go or delivery food options, others were unable to do so. That problem was compounded for stores that were unable to receive small business loans like those through the Paycheck Protection Program.

“This community is tight knit as a small business community,” Darling Boutique Owner Linnea White said. “It’s hard to see anyone go for any reason, but especially over these past few months. The Downtown Mall has started to shift, and I think it’s probably going to continue to do so.”

Store owners say that things seem to be trending in the right direction, as long as they can continue to offer their services in a way that is safe for them and their customers. However, that could change if a second wave of infections hits and a second shelter-in-place order shuts businesses down again.

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