117 Wyoming Ave.
Scranton, Pa.

Store hours change seasonally. Please call store at 570-342-6840 for current hours
"The ultimate women's clothing boutique"
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and not Wilkes-Barre.
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117 Wyoming Ave.
Scranton, Pa.
Call 570-342-6840
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Place 1 - 117 Wyoming Ave., Scranton Pa.
Call: 570-342-6840

Store hours change seasonally. Please call store at 570-342-6840 for current hours

Gown and out, auction set for Saturday of what’s left in closed women’s clothing store in downtown Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE — It’s difficult for Michaelene Coffee to put a price tag on the things she used while operating Place 1 at the Hollywood. Not so for the auctioneer.

Almost everything inside and out will be for sale when J & J Auction Service of Sheppton starts the bidding at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“That building’s been around for a hundred years, let’s say. I’ve had it for 25. The Hollywood shop was in business probably 45, 50 years before that,” Coffee said.

A pair of American flags found in the building’s third-floor storage area has only 48 stars, proof Coffee’s got her history right.

Coffee set up shop in 1991 and stayed in business until 2013, when she was forced to close her building at 67 S. Main St. due to hazards posed by condemned city-owned properties next door. She moved the inventory of gowns and dresses to her Scranton store that still attracts customers from the Wilkes-Barre area.

The downtown store has been empty except for the fixtures, decorations, sewing machines, hangars, wrapping paper, blank price tags and whatever else was left behind with the move. It’s all going, including the exterior signs, to make way for a $28 million hotel/conference center planned for properties at the corner of South Main and West Northampton streets.

Coffee is close to reaching a deal to sell her property and won’t rule out the possibility of returning.

“There’s going to be retail space on the ground floor,” Coffee said of the proposed conference center. She added has spoken to the developers who would welcome her back to the same spot.

“What they’re going to build is spectacular,” Coffee said.

In the meantime, she and the auctioneers have been gathering the behind-the-scenes materials and equipment for display. The stainless steel Hollywood sign, however, will stay attached to the facade until it’s sold and taken down.

Coffee has no idea who would want it. “It all depends on what it’s worth to somebody,” Coffee said.

The Hollywood sign predated her opening. When she moved in, the words “Place 1 at the” were positioned above it for consistency. Coffee has operated Place 1 on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton since 1986.

But the Hollywood is where she first shopped with her grandmother. Coffee recalled going there when she was probably 8 years old to buy her mother a $20 gift certificate.

“The Hollywood, it was the place to go. That was the place to shop. They carried the best of the best of the best,” Coffee said.

South Main Street business owners in limbo

One South Main Street business owner plans to reopen her shop this summer.

Another isn’t sure if she’ll be back.

Michaelene Coffee plans to move merchandise back to Place One at the Hollywood, a women’s clothing store, in July.

She moved her goods to a Scranton location when her Wilkes-Barre store closed in 2013 for the demolition of city-owned buildings next door. Business has been too busy lately during the prom season for her to spare the time needed to clean her Wilkes-Barre store and reopen.

“Up until May, I was open seven days a week. The last proms are this week and some out-of-town proms are next week. I couldn’t take the days of being closed to move,” she said.

The city made a request for proposals for the vacant parcels in January, leaving her wondering what is planned for the space. Asked about the proposals, city spokeswoman Liza Prokop had no comment.

“My biggest concern is I don’t want to move everything back down there, something happens and I have to move out again,” Coffee said.

Another small business owner, Ilona Bruns, said she doesn’t know if she’ll return Frank Clark Jewelers to downtown. Bruns also closed for demolition. She reopened in December, but pulled her inventory from her Wilkes-Barre location last week. She owns another jewelry store, Ocean Gold, in Nanticoke.

“For now, I’m hoping to be able to go back in. I’m just not sure when with what the city has done to me,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my Wilkes-Barre business and the nostalgia, the history of the building. That’s why I opened the jewelry store. It’s not something I want to lose.”

The city demolished the buildings after two engineering firms hired to inspect 61, 71, 73 and 75 S. Main St. found the structures to be in danger of collapsing.

The city’s actions were necessary to prevent a life-threatening situation, and the city took action to allow both tenants back in their buildings for the holiday season, Prokop said in an email.

The corner is an important part of the downtown, Diamond City Partnership Executive Director Larry Newman said.

“I obviously prefer if we could figure out how to get both business back. It has not been a fun process, not for them and not for the downtown in general. I’m still hopeful that this whole saga can result in something positive both for downtown as whole and also for the displaced business owners, that we can get them back in place,” he said.

It’s hard to say if any potential developers would be more interested in the corner now that the parcels are vacant, Newman said.

“It really depends on what the nature of redevelopment is, it depends on what the development goals are,” he said. “On the one hand, certainly the rehab of an older building can be challenging because you’re dealing with existing conditions and you don’t know what you’re going to discover. On the other hand, you already have a building.”

“The idea behind the current RFPs is that entity selected needs to incorporate the facade of the city-owned part of the Engle building into a new project,” he said. “One of things the city is doing that is the right thing is saying ‘Here’s a piece of city-owned property, here are objectives, submit a proposal.’”

One S. Main St. store not returning, other undecided
Businesses were displaced by demolition

One downtown business forced to vacate while neighboring buildings were demolished last year will not return to its South Main Street location and another remains undecided.

Michaelene Coffee of Place One — The Hollywood, and Ilona Bruns of Frank Clark Jewelers, said the situation last year at a critical sales time may have driven them out of the city for good.

Bruns closed her jewelry store last week, and she criticized the city for not helping her. She said she won’t be coming back.

Coffee said she would have to close her Scranton location for two days to return her merchandise to Wilkes-Barre. She said rumors of a planned development of the South Main Street vacant lots that border her store have caused her to reconsider her return. She said the development plan could include the sites where her store and the jewelry store are located.

Mayor Tom Leighton said Wednesday there has been interest in the vacant lot at South Main and Northampton streets, and the city is talking to potential developers.

“We’re working on it,” Leighton said. “But we can’t say anything more at this time.”

Asked if an announcement is near, Leighton declined to comment, saying he is bound by confidentiality agreements with the interested parties.

“I have no comment on any development as there is no information to release at this time,” he said.

But Coffee and Bruns said they have heard unconfirmed reports that include a chain drug store to a new hotel as possible developments.

Just down South Main Street in space owned by Humford Equities, interior demolition work is being done where downtown nightclubs once operated.

Rob Finlay of Humford said there is no news to announce, adding he is having the space cleared to better market it to potential tenants.

There has been public speculation about that space as well, with the most popular theory being an independent grocery chain is considering locating downtown. Finlay denied the report, saying he is talking to possible tenants, but no deals have been struck.

Joe Amato and his company, City Centre L.P., purchased the $8.4 million mortgage on the University Corners complex. He said a grocery chain representative contacted him about renting space, but he did not have a large enough area to lease to accommodate a store.

“But a grocery store would be ideal for the downtown,” Amato said. “It would be another piece of the plan.”

‘Missing piece’

Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, said the site at the corner of South Main and West Northampton streets is key to downtown’s overall success.

Newman said the site is the “missing piece” connecting a number of existing and new downtown investments such as the theater complex, the two loft projects along the first block of East Northampton Street, Wilkes University’s projects in the second block of South Main Street, the retail and restaurants of the first block of South Main, and the YMCA and the River Common to the west.

“The two privately owned buildings remaining represent two displaced businesses as well as two of the best historic commercial facades left in downtown, so it’s critical that the development on the corner integrates with them as well,” Newman said. “If we want to maximize the walkability of the downtown core and keep the positive momentum going, then that site has to be developed correctly.”

Newman said it’s important for any future developer of the corner site to meet the development objectives that are outlined in the City’s RFP for development.

“And, based on what we hear, we remain optimistic that those goals can be met,” he said.

In order to blend in with the University Corners across the street, the city indicated the new development should be mixed used with specialty retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor. The upper floor would be residential or office space.

Remaining buildings

Last fall, the city contracted to demolish four vacant buildings at 69, 71, 73 and 75 S. Main St. The city owned the properties and condemned them in October due to their deteriorating conditions.

The demolition took place around two privately owned properties in the middle of the cluster where Place 1 and Frank Clark’s were housed.

Bruns, 38, a single mother of two, continues to operate her Nanticoke store, Ocean Gold, and she said she had intended to renovate the Wilkes-Barre store but could not finance the project.

Bruns said the demolition of the buildings that required her to vacate the premises couldn’t have come at a worse time. She said she lost Black Friday business and pre-holiday business because she could not open her store.

“People who wanted to purchase jewelry went to other jewelers,” she said. “Buy the time I reopened in mid-December, the holiday shopping season was pretty much over.”

Bruns said there wasn’t much call for jewelry after the holidays.

“It just devastated me,” she said. “I invested a lot of money to restore a historical building in downtown and pretty much I was forced out of there.”

Bruns contends the city put her out of business, and she is contemplating taking legal action. Leighton said the city received two engineering reports that indicated the surrounding buildings were in danger of collapsing and advised they be taken down immediately.

“When Bartikowsky’s closed I was hoping to get some of that business,” Bruns said. “Then all of a sudden the buildings were demolished and that shut me down.”

Wait and see

Coffee said she really can’t say when she will move back to her Wilkes-Barre location.

“I really don’t have an answer to that question,” Coffee said. “I’m hearing that the city is talking about doing some project there.”

Coffee said she is taking a wait-and-see approach. She said a big development project could result in a developer seeking to purchase the remaining two buildings to make for a larger space.

“My fear is that I will move back and then somebody will want to buy the building,” she said.

Place 1 has only one place for now

Place 1 dress shop will continue to have one storefront for awhile.

Michaelene Coffee, the owner of shops in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, said her South Main Street location — Place 1 at the Hollywood — will remain closed until she can repair broken pipes caused by the recent frigid temperatures.

Coffee said her Place 1 Scranton store remains open and local customers have been going there to get their prom and wedding dresses.

Coffee had to closed the Wilkes-Barre store last fall when the city had condemned vacant nearby structures over fears they would collapse. The city entered a $194,861 contract to tear down two stores, leaving the Place 1 and the Frank Clark buildings, located in the middle of the commercial cluster, standing.

“I won’t be moving back to Wilkes-Barre for a while,” Coffee said Monday. “It’s March and it’s my busy season.”

Coffee said she has estimates to fix the pipes, but if the boiler needs to be replaced, the price could double. “There’s nothing I can do about it,” she said. “I just have to get through it. Right now, I have to sell dresses.”

Coffee said she has asked her attorney to look into the possibility of filing an action against the city. She contends the city’s notice to vacate was not lifted from her building until late January, preventing her from entering the building. The city says Coffee was given a letter in early December informing her she could return at any time.

She said she has letters from her attorney that clearly show she was denied access to the building until on or about Jan. 29.

However, Coffee said she doesn’t want to create a contentious situation. She said that for now she is too busy with her Scranton shop to devote any time to re-opening the South Main Street store.

“It will take weeks to get everything fixed,” she said. “Then the store needs to be cleaned and all of the racks have to be re-installed. I’m just too busy right now to take care of all of that.”

Mayor Tom Leighton said the city informed Coffee that she could return in early December.

“It was her decision not to go back,” he said. “It’s been three months since the demolition.”

Coffee says she was restricted longer because her building is next to the still-standing portion of one of the demolished buildings.

Ilona Bruns, owner of Frank Clark Jeweler, moved back to her business well before Christmas. Bruns temporarily relocated to Nanticoke, where she operates another store. She returned to Wilkes-Barre in mid-December, reopening the store at 63 S. Main St. nearly 45 days after closing for the demolition.

Coffee reached a deal with the city to pay approximately $8,800 to transport her merchandise to and from a property in Scranton.

Coffee said she is thankful her customers have weathered the inconvenience of traveling to Scranton for their dresses.

“I’ve been in business for 25 years,” she said. “I’m now selling dresses to the daughters of women who were my first customers when I first opened.”

Place One is a family owned women's clothing store in Wilkes-Barre. Today's woman can find anything she may desire at Place One. From an elegant evening gown to a pair of embellished jeans or a unique jacket, the staff at Place One can help you select the perfect outfit for any occassion. Whether you are looking for some new items for your everyday wardrobe or a mother of the bride/groom gown for that special day, Place One should be your first stop.

Place One, 67 South Main Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre is the "Ultimate Special Occasion" store. Solely specializing in special occasion attire, Place One Wilkes-Barre carries thousands of dresses, gowns and accessories for any type of special occasion.

Mother of the bride and groom wear is our specialty. We offer mother's dresses in sizes 2 to 24. We carry lines from all over the United States and Canada. Our normal inventory of mother's wear ranges around 1000 pieces. Simply put we have the largest selection of mother's dresses. Place One's expert staff will work with you to make sure you have the perfect dress for that special day. We will special order your favorite dress in other colors and sizes if we don't have exactly what you are looking for. Why go to a bridal shop that carries a few mother's dresses when you can shop at Place One, Wilkes-Barre and have hundreds of dresses to consider.

Prom attire is also a specialty of Place One, Wilkes-Barre. Our buyer travels to all of the prom markets and selects the latest styles and the hottest lines for the season. During prom season you can select from thousands of prom gowns and dresses. We also register every gown sold at Place One, and will only sell one dress of each style to each school. The staff at Place One will work with each girl to select the ideal dress for her prom. Expect alterations ensure that the perfect dress that you select will have the perfect fit.

If you are a guest at a wedding or going to the upcoming ball or social event of the year, Place One, Wilkes-Barre is one place you shouldn't miss. Special occasion dresses and pantsuits are perfect for the guest. Amazing cocktail dresses and gowns are always in stock for any special event.

Place One, Wilkes-Barre also carries a wide range of special occasion accessories. We carry hundreds of special occasion shoes, a huge selection of rhinestone and beaded jewelry including necklaces, earrings and bracelets, and evening handbags. Place One, Wilkes-Barre is a one stop shop where you can find everything for that special event.