By Geri Gibbons, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The grand opening of the Market Street Business Center on Tuesday brought out the public and featured three related businesses which call the center home.
Three more companies are slated to occupy the renovated space by 2018.
The project marks progress in the redevelopment of over 6 acres purchased from the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority by Market Square Properties Development LLC in 2016 for $1.2 million.
George Albert, a major investor in the corporation, intends to make the area a showcase to those entering the city.
When completed, the project is anticipated to include renovation of the adjacent New Jersey Central train station property, named on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jeff Thomas, owner of Gold Star Digital Document Services, JT Billyboxes and Business Office Systems Inc., which have occupied a space in the strip mall since 2010, said the event was a great way to express gratitude to his customers who have been loyal to his three-in-one business concept as it grew, despite having to “bounce through potholes” to make it to his front door.
The recent renovation of the center and its parking lot — with the businesses moving to another space in the building — has provided Thomas the opportunity to expand.
He said he will focus on providing full-service digital printing; sales and service of business equipment; plus packing and shipping assistance to customers in Luzerne County.
“In 2011, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer,” said Thomas. “At one point, I was gone for about a year. My employees made it possible for the business to keep going.”
Thomas called the event his “grand re-opening.” He said it also signified his re-commitment to his work after his battle with cancer.
He said his business model goes against the norm. Bonuses are based on the collective success of all three divisions: equipment, printing and service.
“Everyone is a stakeholder in the business as a whole,” he said. “People pushed back originally, but it seems to be working. But really, the jury is still out.”
Thomas said he has always had a good relationship with engineers, contractors, lawyers and architects. Now, he wants to grow his retail customer base.
“For example, an architect comes in and rents a mailbox and we do his printing and scanning as well,” he said. “He’s only one person, but he has good business support, he looks good to his customers.”
Jackson Chapasko, Ashley, is an example of a customer with simpler needs.
“They helped me mail packages to my sister in Albuquerque,” he said.
Jim Ceccoli, Plains, said he was impressed with the business’ ability to blow up small photos to poster size, suitable for framing.
Both Chapasko and Ceccoli said it wasn’t only the specific products that kept them coming back, but the atmosphere and friendly service.
Thomas hopes other businesses planned for the center will attract even more people.
“For example, they are planning a Domino’s Pizza to open soon,” he said. “That will mean more people will know that we are here.”
Lindsay Bezick, of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t have been happier with the turnout for Tuesday’s event.
“With more traffic on Coal Street, it seems like the perfect area for future development,” she said.