On a gorgeous Thursday night earlier this month, I traveled to downtown Wilkes-Barre to help out for the Diamond City Partnership Sunsets on SOMA Happy Hour. Located in the Midtown Village outdoor space at 41 South Main, and featuring live music and refreshments, I was in awe of the crowds gathered to enjoy the beautiful summer night. As I looked around the eclectic group, I saw a mix of business people, families with children, and the elderly. It made me smile to see the downtown area filled with positive energy.
Many surrounding businesses in Midtown Village and along the South Main were also benefiting from the influx of people, including Boozy B’s, Bee Hive gift shop, Thai Thai, and Istanbul Grill, among others. I spotted friends sitting outside Boozy B’s enjoying alcoholic ice cream cocktails and others talking about meeting up at Franklin’s for a bite to eat afterwards. It was good to see all the activity in the area.
I think we are forgetting all that our downtown has to offer. You can find everything from famous Circles sandwiches to fine dining establishments, such as Jonathan’s and Bank & Vine, lively college bars like Senunas’ and Rodano’s, concerts at FM Kirby Center and Karl Hall, and fine works by art in Sordoni and other art galleries. What better way to spend a hot summer night than a stroll down the South Main to visit the city’s many galleries, followed by a movie at Movies 14 and ice cream from Diamond City Dairy.
The diversity of downtown restaurants is also astonishing. It is a melting pot of food from around the world. A sample of ethnic cuisine to sample includes Asian cuisine, Bronco’s Brazilian Steakhouse, Burrito Loco, CafÃ© Toscana, Caribbean Paradise Restaurant & Grocery, Hartman Jerk Center, Istanbul Grill, Pete’s Place and the Thai Thai. Retail is also alive and well in downtown Wilkes-Barre with longtime favorites including Boscov’s, Marquis Art & Frame, Barnes & Noble, Around Town Bicycles, Bell Home Furnishings, Top of the Slope and Iorio’s Jewelers .
So many people are realizing the convenience of living in the city center, as evidenced by the waitlist for many of the city’s luxury apartments that fill up quickly with young professionals. In a recent interview with Susan Magnotta of the Diamond City Partnership, she explained that the downtown residential market is exploding. She said that people really like the ability to walk in a city where you can walk to work, eat out, shop, and find all types of entertainment. In downtown Wilkes-Barre, you can find grocery stores, pharmacies, florists, salons, medical centers, banks and more, all just a few blocks away. She added that downtown residents love the healthy lifestyle and diversity that a pedestrianized city offers.
Susan also stressed the importance of embracing Wilkes-Barre as a college town that fills up each fall with students who support local businesses and contribute to our economy. Local guesthouses, such as the Hillard House Inn, and downtown hotels, including Genetti’s, benefit college families visiting students, business travelers, and local visitors.
While just two years ago, Wilkes-Barre was emerging with new business openings and swarming with workers who filled many downtown buildings, the pandemic has shifted many businesses to a working model. home that harmed the city. Empty office buildings meant fewer customers for restaurants and stores. This resulted in the closure of several restaurants last year, including S&W Restaurant, Dino’s Pizza Express, El Zocalo Mexican Restaurant, Center City CafÃ©, Boscov’s Restaurant, and Lett’s Eat.
I think it’s up to all of us to support our downtown and help keep the businesses in our city alive and well. Local organizations, such as the Diamond City Partnership, the Town of Wilkes-Barre, and the Luzerne County Visitors Bureau, have all worked on initiatives to draw people to the city center.
This includes the Sunsets on SOMA Happy Hour series which will continue on Thursdays July 15, August 19 and September 16; the return of the popular Rockin ‘the River concerts on Friday July 16, 23 and 30; and the Out Back at Karl Hall concert series on Sunday July 11, August 15 and 29, and September 12 and 26.
Health-conscious people can take advantage of free yoga every Saturday at 10 a.m. at River Common by the Riverfront Yoga Project and at the Wilkes-Barre City Farmer’s Market which now takes place every Thursday in the public square. The Diamond City Partnership also works to engage families in bringing kids downtown through the Downtown Discoveries Summer Passport program. It’s a fun scavenger hunt that takes kids through the downtown arts and culture district on the South Main, past the storybook on the windows of Barnes and Noble and the fitness corner of Midtown Village. What a great way to introduce children to our city center.
Ted Wampole, executive director of the Luzerne County Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees that keeping downtown Wilkes-Barre alive and thriving must be a community effort. He looks forward to the full return of FM Kirby Center with a busy season of concerts and other shows. He said it will attract the activity Wilkes-Barre needs. Ted helped bring the Rockin ‘the River concert series to life, which drew thousands of people to the riverside and downtown. He added that all of these things are a sign that Wilkes-Barre is headed in the right direction again.
I hope you will join me in supporting downtown Wilkes-Barre by attending some of the planned summer events, visiting our downtown restaurants and retail stores, and enjoying all that downtown. town of Wilkes-Barre has to offer.
Ruth Corcoran is a professional trader, former restaurant owner and community activist. She resides in Bear Creek. Readers can reach Ruth by email [emailÂ protected]