Vegan Cafe, Apartments For Wilkes Students Planned For Downtown
WILKES-BARRE — A vegan cafe and more apartments for Wilkes University students are coming to downtown Wilkes-Barre. Jason Griggs, a member of Wilkes University’s board of trustees and owner and president of Griggs Properties LLC in Montgomery County, has purchased a vacant building at 134 S. Main St. for $300,000. Eden-A-Vegan Cafe will be the storefront and apartments for Wilkes University students will be located on the first, second and third floors, Griggs said. Christian Pilosi, who has owned Eden-A-Vegan Cafe in Scranton since 2008, signed the lease Monday. This will be his second location. Construction has started on the building and Pilosi hopes to open the vegan cafe in July or August or possibly sooner. Pilosi said he has been looking for a place to open in downtown Wilkes-Barre since Loyalty Barber Shop co-owner Anthony Ranella has been asking him to move here. Ranella co-owns Loyalty Barbershop next to Eden-A-Vegan on Adams Avenue in Scranton as well as another location in Archbald. The barbershop opened its third location in the Alleghany Lofts building at 94-96 S. Main St. in downtown Wilkes-Barre in 2017. “He (Ranella) was twisting my arm to come down here,” Pilosi said. “He said, ‘You’ll do great and people are looking for what you do.’ There’s nothing else like it downtown.” Since then, Pilosi has been looking at buildings in downtown Wilkes-Barre and posting about his search on Facebook. He then learned about space available in the building at 134 S. Main St. He thought it’s the perfect location because it is across from Starbucks on Wilkes University’s campus and many Wilkes students often walk around in the area. “When we saw all the foot traffic, it really was a dream come true,” Pilosi said. Pilosi said the Wilkes-Barre restaurant will be designed according to his specifications. He said there has been a demand for a vegan cafe to open in downtown Wilkes-Barre since people are looking for the “traditional comfort foods” he has been serving in Scranton for more than 10 years. Many customers come to his Scranton cafe from Wilkes-Barre and they have been asking him to open here, he said. Eden-A-Vegan Cafe serves food like veggie burgers and pizza with vegan mozzarella cheeses and vegan meatballs as well as wraps, hoagies and paninis. The plant-based food is made using different proteins and there are no dairy products or animal products used, Pilosi said. He said half of his business does not consist of vegan or vegetarian customers but just “people who love the food.” “This plant-based food has become so mainstream in the last 10 years,” he said. “All kinds of customers come in. It’s not just one demographic.” Pilosi, a graduate of Wilkes University, talks to students there about vegan food because they are interested in eating it for environmental reasons. He said being located next to Wilkes University offers him the perfect location so he can continue to do that. The building also will include seven apartments for Wilkes University students, said Griggs, who graduated from Wilkes University with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1990 and has served on the board of trustees since 2009. It will include a quad apartment on the first floor and rent will be about $2,000 a month, four two-bedroom apartments for about $1,000 a month and two studio apartments for $700 a month, he said. The apartments were designed for student use and will have washers and dryers, central air conditioning and granite countertops, he said. He expects they will be completed by the end of June or early July. The South Main Street building was constructed in the 1930s and has been vacant for years. It was gutted and everything inside in new. Sprinklers, an alarm system, WiFi and new interior and exterior lighting were added, Griggs said. “We’re very happy with the way things are going to this point,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it’s safe for tenants and we wanted to provide a nice new bright facade for South Main Street.” As a member of Wilkes University’s board of trustees, Griggs said he felt he had a responsibility to the university, the students and the Wilkes-Barre area to fix up the building that is located across from the Karambelas Media and Communication Center and Sordoni Art Gallery. “Someone needed to come in and do something with that building,” he said. “It was not in good shape when I bought it and it needed to be fixed up.” In the future, Griggs said he sees “there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for growth in Wilkes-Barre.” “I think Wilkes-Barre’s best days lie ahead,” he said. Paul Adams, vice president of students affairs at Wilkes University, said the university will lease the apartments in the building and they will become part of its on-campus housing offerings. “Our goal is to always be diversifying our residence halls so that we create the kinds of options and amenities our students desire,” Adams said. “These apartments continue to take us on that path.” The vegan cafe that will be operated independently also will “fulfill a student need,” Adams said. “Students are increasingly health-conscious and they will appreciate another option in this category located in one of our residential properties,” he said.