WILKES-BARRE — The dust has settled with the completion of most demolition on the condemned buildings downtown, and now it’s just another thing for the owners of neighboring stores to deal with before returning.
The extra work of cleaning up Place One at the Hollywood was enough for Michaelene Coffee to put off her return until after the holidays.
“I won’t be moving back to Wilkes-Barre until after the first of the year,” Coffee said Wednesday.
She temporarily relocated to Scranton last month after the city condemned a row of buildings, including three of its own, on South Main Street. Her nextdoor neighbor, Ilona Bruns, of Frank Clark Jeweler, moved to her Ocean Gold store on Main Street in Nanticoke.
Bruns was considering returning as early as next week, if she could make her store presentable with some vacuuming and cleaning.
“It might not be so pretty,” Bruns said.
Some utilities have been restored on the demolition project that began on Nov. 11. Stell Enterprises Inc. of Plains Township, which received the $194,861 emergency demolition bid, is working on rebuilding the facade that Coffee’s property at 67 S. Main St. shared with the adjacent city-owned building at 71 S. Main St., city spokeswoman Liza Prokop said in an e-mail.
The store owners closed shop with the city’s condemnation notice on Oct. 31. Their locations in the middle of a cluster of vacant buildings placed them and their customers in harm’s way of a possible collapse. Their exits could not have come at a more critical time as the start of the holiday shopping season approached.
“I definitely lost those sales,” Bruns said.
Bruns, who has been at 63 S. Main St. since May, would have to pack up her inventory and clean up the showcases to display them. “It took time to get out. It takes time to get back in,” Bruns said.
She is located in the property owned by Ken Pollock Inc. and next to where the former Humphreys’ shoe store, owned by the Wilkes-Barre City Redevelopment Authority at 61 S.Main St., stood.
Coffee, on the other hand, has been in the downtown for 22 years. She reached a deal with the city to pay approximately $8,800 to transport her merchandise to and from a property in Scranton. She closed that store years ago and consolidated it with the one in Wilkes-Barre that, although determined to be structurally sound, was condemned. It shared a 40-foot section of wall with the adjacent city property that, because of the extent of deterioration, posed a safety threat.
Coffee said she was informed by the city that she could return today but will hold off.
The time and effort to clean the Wilkes-Barre store and pack the merchandise for the move here would cut into the holiday shopping season already hurt by the move, she pointed out.
“I can’t ruin any more of my selling season,” Coffee said.She’s cut prices on gowns and dresses by $100 in order to lighten the load. “Everything’s on sale because I don’t want to move it back.”