WILKES-BARRE TWP. — A fashion retail chain is breathing new life into the former Price Chopper in the East End Centre.
The new, 50,000-square-foot Gabe’s store held a soft opening Wednesday, allowing shoppers a sneak preview at the “prototype” location ahead of Saturday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Gabe’s, owned by Gabriel Brothers Inc., sells name-brand clothing, shoes and accessories for men and women, as well as beauty products, housewares and other items in 43 locations in eight states.
Store general manager Craig Nelson said the store employs 170 associates at wages competitive with other retailers. He said hiring has slowed, but the store is still accepting applications.
“I have employees here from 16 years old to probably all the way up to 68,” he said.
The store is called a “prototype,” because it implements a new layout intended to make the store easier for customers to shop and for employees to maintain, said district director Robin Virbickis.
Gabe’s surveyed its customers, she said, and listened closely when designing its new locations. Virbickis said improvements include larger, more convenient fitting rooms, better signage throughout the store and a newly designed register queue faster checkout.
Nelson said he’s most proud of the store’s merchandising and product presentation — and he said he’s seen plenty of good and bad in his career — all of which was done by the store’s new employees.
“They’re the people we brought in three weeks ago,” he said.
With the store’s grand opening just days away, Nelson said he and his staff are prepared for an extremely busy weekend, and all 170 employees are scheduled to work at some point Saturday.
The event begins at 8 a.m. Saturday with the ribbon cutting. Doors open to the public immediately afterward.
Every 15 minutes until noon Saturday the store will hold random drawings for $50 giveaways. Hourly $50 giveaways will take place Saturday afternoon and throughout the day Sunday. East End Centre developer and former drag racer Joe Amato will be available for pictures and autographs at the ceremony.
Gabe’s soft opening continues through the end of the week.