Karri Jackson said Tuesday she is shaken, more than she had ever expected.
More even than on Monday night, in the moments after she heard about the violence outside her Trolley Square store.
In part, Jackson said it's because it has started sinking in that her son-in-law, an employee at her store, saw the gunman pass by. That he was close enough to hear the gunshots and the screams.
"I'm incredibly shaken up," she said. "Last night I think I was just in shock."
Jackson's store, The Next Big Thing, adjoins Cabin Fever, a charming gift store that became a focal point of Monday's crime scene. Her son-in-law, Jaron Dansie, staffed Jackson's store Monday and relayed his recollections to her.
"He said he heard the commotion," Jackson said. "He looked out and saw the gunman reloading. He could hear the people next door (at Cabin Fever) yelling 'Stop!' He heard them yelling as they were getting shot. It all happened in front of my store. But for the grace of God, my son-in-law wasn't killed."
Merchants met with mall owners late Tuesday afternoon, after which the bulk of them were allowed back into their stores. The mall will reopen today at 8 a.m., but owners said it is up to the discretion of each retailer and restaurant as to when it will resume business.
"Our priority right now is reaching out to the businesses and Trolley Square, and responding as best as we can to their needs," said Jerry Hunt, president and chief operating officer of Blake Hunt Ventures, the mall's development partner.
"We want to do the right thing, at the right pace, for everyone as they try to comprehend this, to mourn and hopefully to heal. We want to take great care, and our intent is to do what's right. It's not to get right back to business as usual. The Trolley Square community and management, we are all shocked and horrified by these events. There's really only so much you could ever expect to be prepared for, and we're just finding our way."
ScanlanKempBard bought Trolley Square from Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group in August. In October, it teamed with Blake Hunt Ventures, which will manage a multimillion-dollar renovation at the site, including a $6 million remodeling of the main building, the addition of a $12 million building for anchor tenant(s), a new parking structure and the possibility of on-site upscale residences. Work on the interior of the main building began last month.
In the coming days, mall owners and management will be asking a lot of questions and listening to a lot of people about what could have been done, about what will be done going forward. At the same time, Hunt reiterated the owners' commitment to the project.
"Trolley Square is and has been such a special place, way beyond a shopping center," Hunt said. "Our long-term commitment (to the mall and the redevelopment) hasn't changed. But our focus right now is to do what we can to treat those who were victimized and traumatized with all the dignity and respect that they deserve, and to handle it with great care."
Nick West, president of the Trolley Square Merchants Association, said many of the group's 50-odd members remain shaken.
"They're like family, and this was such a shock," West said. West owned Holidays At Home, which left Trolley Square in December. Its space is now occupied by Brass Key Antiques on the upper level of the mall.
"Trolley Square was our second home for quite a long time while we had a store there, and we frequently visit and interact with the merchants at the mall," West said. "Though I can't speak for them personally, I'd think that they're comprehending how close it came, and how easily they could have been victims themselves."
Sean Van Wagonen, a 24-year old University of Utah student, works as a server at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Van Wagonen was at work Monday and escaped out the back of the restaurant when the shooting began. On Tuesday he returned to reclaim his wallet and car, worried both about the fate of Trolley Square and about keeping his job.
"You just don't know how many people are going to want to come back," Van Wagonen said. "If people don't come back and eat, I'm going to have to find another job."
Jackson also is contemplating her future. The Next Big Thing, which specializes in unique gifts for people and pets, has called Trolley Square home for more than three years. But her lease is up at the end of the month, and though she has an option to extend her current lease or expand to another location at the mall, she's hesitant.
"I have the option of staying," she said and then paused. "But ... this just changes everything. Hopefully I'll be able to make a decision that isn't based too much on emotion."
She's hesitant to ask her employees to come back to work. She wonders how the mall, its tenants and customers will heal. She worries what it all means and how to make sense of it."I really don't know what to do at this point," she said. "The fact that my son-in-law he and my daughter have only been married for six months the fact that he came within probably a glance of an eye of possibly being killed or wounded is just sickening to me."
Contributing: Leigh Dethman
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