By Patrick Kernan, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Christian Switzer never expected to be in the sushi business.
He is now, though, as the owner of City Market and Cafe on Public Square has transformed a former grocery area at the back of the store into an authentic sushi bar — complete with eye-catching Japanese decor — to fill a void in the downtown dining scene.
Sushi at City Market recently opened at the back of the restaurant, convenience store and bar combo located on the west side of the square.
The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, Switzer said — so great that the lunch rush on Friday was “total madness.”
This new venture emerged as Switzer was looking to take the business in a new direction.
In the space where the sushi bar now sits, the store previously had a limited grocery selection.
“But groceries weren’t working after Dollar Tree opened,” Switzer said, referring to the nearby dollar store which also sells some groceries located on South Main Street, just off Public Square.
So, after some brainstorming, the answer seemed clear: sushi. With the recent closure of Katana in Wilkes-Barre, the downtown area was left without a sushi restaurant, allowing room for City Market to try its hand at filling in the gap.
Offering a similar experience to what Katana formerly offered was actually part of Switzer’s goal, he said.
“We wanted to offer an authentic experience,” he said. “Not just a grab-and-go thing like at Wegmans.”
As such, the Sushi at City Market experience is one complete with table service — but, for those in a rush on their lunch breaks, a grab-and-go selection will be offered in the store’s coolers.
Switzer said that the turnaround on the project, from conception to completion, was fairly quick, taking only four months. The project was completed in partnership with the Shogun Japanese Restaurant, located in The Woodlands Inn and Resort, whose owner Switzer described as a mutual friend.
Switzer said the sushi bar was originally only supposed to have a “soft opening” over the weekend, without an official announcement, but after an overwhelmingly positive response, he decided to post about the opening on Facebook.
It’s all part of a plan to make City Market offer a more unique experience.
“I wanted it to be the dynamic like what you’d see in New York,” he said.
If you’d like to experience that dynamic, Sushi at City Market is open from Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.