By Denise Allabaugh, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — Entrepreneur Sam Syla’s vision to restore a historic bank building in downtown Wilkes-Barre has come to fruition.
Vault Grill & Bar has opened at 24 W. Market St. in the former Wyoming National Bank building. The site was most recently Wachovia Bank before it closed 17 years ago.
Syla bought the building three years ago for $285,000 and invested more than $2 million in private funds renovating it.
He has leased 33 high-end apartments constructed on the upper floors and he owns the Vault with Cafe Toscana owners Marcello and Bruno Ahmeti, along with Genc Gashi, a waiter and bartender at Toscana.
A soft opening was held Friday, and Monday marked the first day the Vault was open for lunch, Gashi said.
Customers can now eat inside a historic vault that remained from the former bank. About 25 tons of steel was removed from the vault to create the space for tables, Syla said. The process took about a month, he said.
In all, the bar and restaurant area can seat more than 120 and it will be open for lunch and dinner, Gashi said.
The building was constructed in 1914 to house the Wyoming National Bank and its name still graces the front. Several mergers and bank purchases followed.
The Wyoming National Bank merged into Merchants Bank of Allentown in 1985. Merchants Bank was purchased by First Fidelity Bank of Newark, New Jersey, which was bought by First Union Bank of Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1995. First Union then merged with Wachovia Bank, now Wells Fargo.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, said he is pleased to see the vacant bank building transformed into a fully occupied, mixed-used building.
“All those new apartments and the restaurant in the commercial space really helps to illustrate the forward momentum that we’re seeing in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” Newman said. “It was done by private investors with private money who saw a market opportunity based on the ongoing positive changes in downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
A similar development was completed in Scranton, where the Vault Tap & Kitchen occupies the historic Electric City Bank Building.