For more than two months the Prairie Lakes parking lot was nearly empty but now as COVID-19 Safer at Home restrictions ease, there’s optimism as business owners open their door.

There are lines for lattes at Starbuck’s drive-thru, restaurants are offering curbside and delivery service, and retailers are welcoming customers—in limited numbers—into their stores.

The outdoor shopping mall on the city’s west side off South Grand Avenue has around 35 stores, with more outside the development’s boundaries. It’s been the showcase of the city’s modern business district.

Essential businesses, including The Healthy Place, and restaurants, have been the mainstays of the Prairie Lakes during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Chad Fedler, the developer of Prairie Lakes, estimated that business at Prairie Lakes was down 70-90 percent during the darkest day of the COVID-19 restrictions, but he expects things to pick up now.

With the Supreme Court’s overturn of Gov. Tony Evers Safer at Home orders that were set to end May 26 and relaxing of rules with the Dane County order, Fedler said the focus now is boosting consumer confidence.

“We have great business owners who do an excellent job and they are in tune with their customers’ needs to welcome them back and allow them to have a safe, quality experience at each of their establishments,” Fedler said.

Jessica Anderson, owner of Fleet Feet in Sun Prairie, opened the store to customers last Thursday, with six-feet social distancing, requiring employees to wear gloves and face masks, and giving customers clean socks to try on shoes and disinfecting shoes after fittings. Anderson is also asking customers to wear face masks in the store.

“People were really excited that we opened and they have felt pretty comfortable coming into the store with the safety measures we have put in place,” Anderson said.

Fleet Feet closed its retail space to customers on March 16 before Wisconsin’s Safer at Home went into effect but has done deliveries, with virtual shoe fittings, the entire time since. That has allowed Anderson to keep all her full-time employees.

She said customers have been super supportive of Fleet Feet and she is grateful.

“Shopping locally is really important, especially now, because money spent at small businesses stays in the community,” Anderson said.

Other businesses are also re-opening. Orange Leaf and Humble Donut Co. are gearing up for a June opening and Rejuvenation Spa is offering retail sales now and will start services next week.

There’s still no word on opening dates for other hair, nail and other beauty service businesses in Prairie Lakes, but Fedler expects pent up demand will have customers streaming in when they do.

“I think that they will come back even stronger,” Fedler said. “There are people who have gone more than two months without a haircut or other services, so I think customers are ready for these businesses to open soon.”

Two new businesses—Grace Coffee Co. and Gloria’s Mexican restaurant—are expected to open in early June, Fedler said. Based on comments to the Prairie Lakes Facebook page, people are excited about the new arrivals. Sugar River Pizza is also gathering a fan base for its anticipated August opening.

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