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Shaken storekeepers call for tighter security in wake of Eaton Centre shooting

Police tape is seen in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012 after a shooting in the food court.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

The Eaton Centre re-opened Monday morning after a deadly shooting over the weekend, allowing dozens of shoppers who had to scramble out of the mall, leaving behind cell phones, purses or shopping bags, to retrieve their belongings. The centre's parking lot, where many vehicles also had to be abandoned, also re-opened.

The food court will remain closed until Tuesday however.

As patrons and employees entered the mall it was hard to avoid remembering what happened Saturday, with at least seven TV trucks lined up outside the main entrance. A small collection of flowers and stuffed animals that formed a memorial were sat at the revolving doors.

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Shoppers returning to the centre when it reopened for business at 10 a.m. said it felt strange and a bit scary, but they wouldn't let the shooting incident stop them from shopping there.

Stopping for coffee on his way to work in a watch store at the mall, 18-year-old Nabell John said he was at the mall with friends on the second level at the time of the shooting but that didn't faze him.

"It happened once, I think everything will go back to normal," he said. "Just because it happened downtown, this is the type of the thing that happens at the other ends of Toronto and no one pays attention," he said.

"The Eaton Centre is so much part of my regular life," said Vicki Lau, 35, who came to return two items at Lululemon and look for other athletic clothing there. "But it's kind of an eerie feeling to be so close to what happened."

Mary Garisto, co-owner of the Trade Secret beauty store, came to work with a candle that she lit in memory of the victim in Saturday's shooting.

Her store was quieter than usual this morning in the aftermath of the shootings. And she thinks it could take another week or two for business to get back to normal.

"Its going to take a while for business to recover," she said, pointing to the closed food court almost directly below her store. "It was terrifying for those here".

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"Everyone is a little shaken," she said.

"Business will definitely be a lot quieter this week, especially today with the food court closed," Irene Artemenkov, manager of the nearby clothing store Costa Blanca, said.

A number of managers of stores, particularly those close to the food court, said the mall needs to step up security.

Some called for detectors at entrances so that people with guns would have to surrender them, or wouldn't be allowed to enter.

"In terms of security, the Eaton Centre is lacking," said Sheryll Pagulayen, assistant manager at the Aldo shoe store on the lower level, close to the food court. "For some of my staff, it was pretty scary."

She said a couple of her younger employees don't want to return to work. "We have to calm our staff and say: 'Things can happen anywhere.'"

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She told her own 14 year old son not to come to the mall today. "As a mother I'm scared. I told him not to walk the malls .... But you just have to be very calm."

Night Warraich , manager of the Bentleys luggage and accessories store, also said mall security needs to be beefed up. "How come that guy with a gun came in?" She asked. "It's scary ... It's not good for business."

Shoppers were staring down at the still-shut food court on the lowest mall level, trying to be calm. "I'm scared -- devastated," said Dianna Andreevsk, 30, who was looking down at the food court a level below. "But who isn't curious?"

And her fear didn't stop her from buying a pair of shoes at Aldo's during her lunch break.

Even so, Ms. Pagulayen said there was less traffic in the mall, and it could take weeks – even a month. – before business got back to normal.

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About the Author
Retailing Reporter

Marina Strauss covers retailing for The Globe and Mail's Report on Business. She follows a wide range of topics in the sector, from the fallout of foreign retailers invading Canada to how a merchant such as the Swedish Ikea gets its mojo. She has probed the rise and fall (and revival efforts) of Loblaw Cos., Hudson's Bay and others. More

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