By Denise Allabaugh, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice:
Like other downtown Wilkes-Barre small business owners, Carleen Hartman has been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With events being canceled or scaled down, like the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and Santa parade on Tuesday, the owner of Hartman Jerk Center at 72 S. Main St. has seen a decline in walk-in traffic.
Hartman said customers are mostly picking up takeout or ordering food through DoorDash or Grubhub.
“People are not coming out like they used to,” she said. “Everybody is struggling right now. You just do what you have to do.”
She hopes a new promotion that will begin on Small Business Saturday called “Downtown Wilkes-Barre Dining Deals” will help business.
Hartman Jerk Center is one of the downtown Wilkes-Barre restaurants participating in the program announced by the Diamond City Partnership.
Others include Abide Coffee House, Bronco’s Vault, Letts Eat, Circles on the Square, Rodano’s, Franklin’s, Pete’s Place, Vesuvio’s Pizzeria, Jonathan’s, Instanbul Grill, Oyster Restaurant, Franco’s Pizza, Anthracite Newsstand, Mimmo’s Pizza, Senunas’ Bar and Grill, Pronto Via Pizzeria, Januzzi’s Pizza and Pour Coffee House.
Under the program, customers can receive a $5 gift card free if they buy a $25 gift card, a $10 gift card free if they buy a $50 gift card and a $25 gift card free if they buy a $100 gift card.
Hartman said the promotion is one way to help downtown Wilkes-Barre small business owners.
The Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce and Diamond City Partnership also will launch another initiative on Small Business Saturday.
Officials from both organizations will hold a grand opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the new holiday pop-up shops on Public Square.
The nine pop-up shops will feature social distancing measures and allow the public to safely shop small this holiday season. They will be open until Dec. 12.
Since 2018, the downtown Wilkes-Barre holiday pop-up market has provided local independent retailers with a low-cost opportunity to test-drive a physical presence in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
This year, there is a special focus on retailers that may have lost a location or need additional assistance in reaching customers as a result of COVID-19.
The downtown Wilkes-Barre holiday pop-up market is presented by PPL and new pop-up structures have been funded with Luzerne County Cares Act funding. The shops were designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and produced by Panzitta Enterprises.
Shoppers will be required to wear masks at the shops and sanitizer will be available.
Vendors include Eleventh Element, Pittston Popcorn, Kaki Intimates, The Arch Hive, Four Story Hill Farm, Park Multimedia, 3 Buds LLC, League SVN and Culinary Creations by Metz.
Diamond City Partnership executive director Larry Newman said 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for small retailers and many have seen a drop in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic and those were reasons to change the traditional format of the downtown Wilkes-Barre pop-up shops.
“Shifting to an outdoor holiday market on Public Square allows us to create a festive open-air marketplace, giving small businesses a new way to reach customers during this difficult time, while generating much needed activity in downtown during the 2020 holiday shopping season,” Newman said.
Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce chief operating officer and vice president Lindsay Griffin said the vision and mission of the holiday pop-up market initiative that developed three years ago has “evolved to become more relevant and more needed than ever before.”
“This year, the pop-up market has become a critical small business initiative that will allow retailers the chance to safely do business during the holiday season and will additionally showcase our downtown and promote its existing businesses,” Griffin said.
Small Business Saturday deals throughout Luzerne County can be found at luzernecountylocal.org.