By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — After being closed since before Christmas, Dunkin’ Donuts on Public Square will reopen on Monday, the owners announced.
“Yes, we are excited to reopen Monday,” said owner Michelle Wise. “Our hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with take-out only. I appreciate all of the support in getting the word out and we look forward to serving everyone in downtown.”
A sign is posted on the doors that states the store is hiring. The store is currently being cleaned in preparation of Monday’s reopening, Wise said.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, steward of the downtown, said the reopening of Dunkin’s location at 39 Public Square is a welcome sign of progress in the effort to restart the downtown economy.
“As vaccinations continue and major employers implement phased returns to offices during the coming months, some of Downtown’s storefront businesses are beginning to see improved prospects for walk-in traffic,” Newman said. “Dunkin’s reopening is evidence of that increased confidence.”
In fact, Newman said several different downtown business owners have mentioned that they’ve observed a slow but meaningful increase in foot traffic during the last two weeks.
“My understanding is that Highmark is still targeting July as a date to begin returning to the office, but that if conditions continue to improve, Berkshire Hathaway GUARD is planning to begin voluntary returns to in-office work sooner than that — perhaps even within the next month.”
However, Newman said he doesn’t expect that any of Downtown’s major employers will be returning to their full pre-pandemic in-office capacity any time soon.
“To be sure, we’ve still got a long way to go, but in the meantime, we’re very happy that Dunkin’ has made the decision to reopen its doors on Public Square,” Newman said. “It’s great news and hopefully a preview of better days to come.”
The last time there was a sign on the door of the coffee shop’s downtown location, it was to announce it was closing temporarily.
“We regret to inform you that we are temporarily closing the Public Square location due to current economic conditions,” the sign read in December. “It is our goal to open as soon as the current climate improves.”
When the store closed in December, Newman said that, while he was not surprised, given the changing dynamics of downtown Wilkes-Barre due to the pandemic.
“The result of the current public health orders is that there are thousands and thousands of office workers missing who would normally be there on a weekday,” Newman said, estimating that there were about 3,000 fewer office workers downtown than there would be in normal times.
“Those people formed a major part of the patronage of the restaurants and stores downtown,” Newman went on.