The Friendliest Face at the Mall?


Brenna Moreno, Human Interest

For years, there has been one consistent figure walking through the Washington Square Mall. An older man named “Jay” has worked at an increasing number of stores, creating relationships with employees at numerous stores, including Hot Topic, Auntie Anne’s, Lolli & Pops, and now Fuego. One store where his relationships remain intact is at Claire’s, an accessory store for little girls. 20-year-old Kassidy Cummings has worked at Claire’s for three years, now serving as one of the assistant managers. She has known Jay for two years, meeting him for the first time when she got a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s just outside of Claire’s. From that moment on Kassidy stated that “Auntie Annes’s is right across from Claire’s, so he would see me working at night and would come to give me free pretzels.” Other employees at Claire’s have noticed him consistently bringing her free pretzels, and when he switched jobs to Lolli & Pops, his gifts switched to candy. According to Ella Adyani (an employee at Claire’s), Jay will come into the store looking for “Blondie,” give her his free treats and then attempt a hug.

Claire’s has recently hired two employees, both coming fresh off of jobs at Hot Topic in Washington Square. Abby, 22 -year- old was hired as the other assistant manager at Claire’s, and got to know Jay during their overlapping time at Hot Topic. Much like with Kassidy, Jay reportedly often comes to visit Abby, even taking her to go get food on her lunch breaks. The other new hire, Kianna, who is only 19, has almost an identical relationship with Jay, participating in long hugs when he comes to visit her and also receiving his free goodies. 

Evidently, Claire’s has three employees who are in the same kind of relationship with Jay. However, Kassidy Cummings seems to have different feelings about Jay then Abby and Kianna do, “He’s okay, he kinda weirds me out sometimes.” Ella Adyani has noticed that whenever Jay comes to visit Kassidy “she tenses up and when he goes in for a hug she always turns her body so it’s an awkward side hug. She gets rid of him quickly.” In contrast, Abby and Kianna waste no efforts in gushing over Jay, repeatedly thanking him and telling him how much they love him while resting in his embrace.

It is clear that Jay has reached the employees at Claire’s and Kassidy Cummings said, “I’m sure he has similar relationships with employees at numerous stores across the mall. Almost every mall employee would be able to recognize him. He gets around.”

No one knows Jay’s full name, his age, or any member of his family. His actions have left many mall employees questioning his motivation. The store manager of Claire’s, Jessica Cruz stated that “he’s weird. I don’t know why he comes in here all the time. I want to know why he’s like this. It’s creepy. And he’s always switching jobs. I want to know why he can never keep a job.” For many, one question remains, who is Jay, and why is he treating young girls like this? Kassidy Cummings had an idea, “I don’t know how old he is, but he has a daughter a bit older than me. When he first gave me pretzels he said he thought of me as his daughter, so he wanted to make sure I wasn’t hungry.” Although his intentions have not been spelled out, the facts remain clear; Jay is an older man befriending young (female) employees at the mall, frequently visiting them with free hugs and gifts. Contrasting opinions on his actions remain clear, some describe him as “weird” or “creepy” while others “love him.”

While gathering information on Jay, it became clear that he’s almost always at the mall. Jessica Cruz stated that “frequent shoppers would probably recognize him.” Jay is currently working at Fuego, so next time you’re at the mall, be sure to say hello to Santa and Jay– they both give gifts.