12 retailers headed to downtown Wilkes-Barre for holiday ‘experiment’

i Nov 8th 2017

By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

About Pop-Up Shops

• The Holiday Pop-Up Shops will be open from Thursday through Saturday each week with select hours.

• Complementary seasonal musical programs and other special features are being planned for Midtown Village’s central plaza throughout the Pop-Up Shops’ run.

• All Pop-Up Shops will be able to validate customer parking in the Parking Authority’s Lot No. 6 (adjoining Midtown Village on West Northampton Street) and in the Central Garage (across South Main Street from Midtown Village).

• For more information, visit DCP’s website at www.downtownwilkes-barre.org, or on Facebook via the Diamond City Partnership, or the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce.

WILKES-BARRE — Denise Ogurkis said the Holiday Pop-Up Shops project is sending a clear message — key area business owners want to be a part of downtown Wilkes-Barre.

“People don’t have to go to the mall to shop,” Ogurkis said. “They can come downtown and support local businesses.”

The Diamond City Partnership, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association announced the project Tuesday at a breakfast at the THINK Center.

Representatives of the 12 retailers participating in the pop-up program — the Times Leader is the media sponsor — attended the meeting and then visited the site in the Midtown Village, 41 S. Main St., to get a feel for their temporary second locations. All representatives said they were excited about the venture.

The pop-up shops will open on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, and continue through Saturday, Dec. 16.

The rent-free program is being made possible through a $5,000 grant from the PPL Foundation and the Insalaco Development Group, owner of the building.

“This is an experiment,” said Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership. “The downtown needs more independent retail. It’s been tough to attract new retail businesses back to the downtown, but through this proactive effort, we hope to reverse that trend.”

Newman and Lindsay Bezick, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the shops will fill Midtown Village’s available retail spaces.

“We originally thought we would get four or five businesses to participate in the first year,” Bezick said. “But we ended up with 12. About 65 percent of the chamber’s membership is small businesses. We hope this program drives the community to the downtown.”

Newman opened Tuesday’s meeting by offering a few key statistics about the downtown:

• 150 new housing units.

• 11,000 downtown workers.

• 500,000 annually patronize Movies 14.

• 150 events at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

• The number of restaurants has doubled in recent years.

Newman said the pop-up shops will have a measurable economic impact on the city, but he did not put a number on it. After the holiday season, a survey will be taken to find out how the public felt about the project.

“Our hope is that some of these businesses will consider opening up a store after the project ends,” Newman said. “This might not happen this year, but as we go forward, we’re hoping we will see more and more retailers locating in the downtown. That will be the real sign of success.”

The retailers that will set up a shop at Midtown Village:

• Buka — apparel

• Nawrocki Imports — gourmet cheese and imported wine

• Mia Bella Candles, Scent Sations Inc. — home scents

• Michael Allen Designs — unique woodwork furniture and furnishings

• Whipped Sweet Shoppe — gourmet cupcakes

• The Bearded Ladies — trendy pet accessories

• Brittany Boote — photography

• Alan McLaughlin — artwork

• MadebyDMarie — handcrafted jewelry

• Threegirls Oils — essential oils

• Sip N Silk — fragrance and painted silk scarves

• Natalie’s Craft Kombucha — specialty juices


Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George said the city is excited about the pop-up shops.

“They will give local small businesses the chance to explore the possibility of owning permanent shops downtown,” George said. “We are also excited to welcome more holiday shoppers to the city and invite them to stay for dinner at any one of the wonderful downtown restaurants and for entertainment at the F.M. Kirby Center or Movies 14. Events such as this attract more small businesses, which will accommodate the growing workforce of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Continued growth of the downtown is a key tenet of my administration.”

One longtime downtown business is the Bee Hive Gift Shop, located in Midtown Village across from the site of the Pop-Up Shops. The business has been open for nine years, and owner Patty Leighton said she is thrilled to have 12 neighboring businesses on the way.

“This will generate more foot traffic downtown,” Leighton said. “And anything that does that is a win-win.”

Leighton said when she opened the business nine years ago, she signed a three-year lease. She was worried whether she could last that long.

“It’s been great,” she said. “And here we are nine years later.”

‘Drives community downtown’

Ogurkis said her store, Threegirls Oils, is in Harveys Lake. But she thinks downtown Wilkes-Barre has great potential for success.

“Safety will be a key,” Ogurkis said. “I think with the two colleges (King’s and Wilkes) in the downtown, this should be the heart of the area’s economy.”

Danielle Mimms owns The Bearded Ladies & Co. — a pet accessory shop inspired by Mimms’ two dogs, a miniature Schnauzer and a Kerry Blue Terrier. The company specializes in trendy dog gear.

“I’m really excited about opening up downtown,” Mimms said. “I love the city environment. We hope to create a smaller-scale atmosphere like you see in New York City during the holidays.”

Joanna Gover, owner of Buka, a women’s apparel store in Shavertown, said she would love to open a store in downtown Wilkes-Barre and be a part of the city’s revitalization.

“I’ve thought about opening a store in the city, but the rents are much higher,” Gover said. “Wilkes-Barre has changed a lot in recent years — it’s really coming back.”

Cherie Cruz, owner of Sip N Silk in Forty Fort, said she is planning to hold events in her temporary downtown spot.

“We will have a perfume bar where you can create your own scent,” Cruz said. “I’ve lived in the Wilkes-Barre area for 28 years. I’ve watched it go downhill, and now it’s coming back.”

Kerry Miscavage, the Times Leader’s advertising director, said the TL is proud to support the project for downtown Wilkes-Barre.

“Our readers should look forward to some special advertising features we have planned for the holiday season with this exciting group of retailers,” she said.