Barnes & Noble Pop-up Store Opens
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Wright Twp. resident Bill Freeman has missed the Barnes & Noble store in the Arena Hub since it was badly damaged by a tornado three months ago.
He was one of many customers who came to the Barnes & Noble’s temporary store Thursday in the former Sears Outlet store in the East End Center. It opened three months to the day after the EF-2 tornado blew off the Arena Hub store’s back wall and part of its side wall in June.
“It’s beautiful,” Freeman said of the temporary store. “It’s a nice store.”
A line of people waited outside for the temporary store to open at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Store manager Larry Fama said it was a “really warm feeling opening up the doors and seeing all the familiar faces and the smiles on their faces.”
“They know us by name. We know them by name,” Fama said. “We wanted to get back into the community as quickly as we can.”
Work continues in the Arena Hub to repair the store that has been in business since Nov. 17, 1999.
Fama and assistant manager Sean Yustat said the Arena Hub store will not open until early next year but the temporary store will serve customers until then.
Barnes & Noble signed a six-month lease to rent the 30,000-square-foot former Sears Outlet store from Joe Amato, who owns the East End Center.
“We’re very happy to be back in business,” Yustat said. “The other location is moving along. We’ll be here for the holiday season. We’ll be transitioning back up there early next year. We didn’t want to rush into that and take as much time as needed to make that location as best as it can be.”
At the temporary store, customers can find free WiFi, books, toys, games, tables and chairs. One thing they will not find, however, is a cafe serving Starbucks coffee and other products that was at the Arena Hub store.
“This is just temporary and we wanted to devote as many of our resources as possible to making that location better as quickly as we could,” Yustat said. “It’s unfortunate. We miss it as well as everyone else but again, it is only temporary.”
From the day the tornado happened, Fama and Yustat said they received many comments on social media from customers, friends, patrons and other area retailers offering support.
“In the three months since then, everybody has been really excited for us to get back in business,” Yustat said.
Customers who were excited to come to the temporary store’s grand opening on Thursday included Mike Watson of Sugarloaf Twp. and Barry Veet of Hazleton.
Watson said he typically went to the store in the Arena Hub twice a week — sometimes three times a week — and he has missed it.
“It was a place to go and relax,” Watson said. “I used to go a lot on Saturday mornings and there always seemed to be the same people sitting at the same tables every Saturday. It was a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.”
Veet also misses the old store and he said he feels terrible about what happened to all the vendors in the area as a result of the tornado.
“From Hazleton, this was our go-to place,” Veet said. “I love coming to the area and we always stop in Barnes & Noble. All the staff members at Barnes & Noble are just so cordial. They really want to help. No matter what you ask for, they try to find it for you.”
Employees from the store have kept their jobs and are helping with the rebuilding process or working at the temporary location.
Employees include Maddy Alves, cafe supervisor who worked for Barnes & Noble for 10 years and Eryn Gaylets, cafe barista who worked there for 14 years. On Thursday, they worked at the register in the temporary store.
“The fact that we have a space that we could move to temporarily is amazing,” Alves said.
Work also continues to repair other stores in the Arena Hub that were damaged by the June 13 tornado including Dick’s Sporting Goods, T.J. Maxx, Staples and PetSmart.
Robert Tamburro, trustee/general manager of TFP Limited, owner of the Arena Hub, said he hopes the stores will open by the holiday season. He has hired Belfor Property Restoration and work continued at those stores Thursday.
“Work is ongoing at a fast pace,” Tamburro said. “We made a lot of progress. We put in a lot of hard work. It’s been a big team effort. Time is money and we all get it and our goal is get these projects complete as soon as possible and put this chapter behind us.” Tamburro said the amount of work that has been completed in three months has been remarkable.
“I’m really happy and proud of everyone who came to the table to help us,” Tamburro said.
Ashley Furniture, which also was destroyed by the tornado, signed a 10-year lease with Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust to open in about 50,000 square feet of space behind the Wyoming Valley Mall that formerly housed H.H. Gregg before it closed and other vacant stores, said franchise owner Jim Everett. He expects it will open Oct. 1.
Everett owns the site on Mundy Street where Ashley Furniture was demolished and he said he has not yet decided if he will sell the site or rent it to a commercial tenant.
The Wilkes-Barre Twp. Commons strip mall, that housed seven businesses, was severely damaged and condemned. A spokeswoman from Urban Edge Properties, owner of the strip mall, said she does not know yet when it will be demolished.
Tovon & Co. Diamonds, one of the businesses in the condemned strip mall, will open a new location at 47 Memorial Highway, Dallas. Owner and president Tommy Van Scoy Jr. expects it will open in November.
Van Scoy said people could have their rings cleaned and checked and look at engagement and wedding rings by appointment by calling 570-970-2700.
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Barnes & Noble has lined up these free events at its temporary store in the East End Center in Wilkes-Barre Twp.:
Saturday, Sept. 15 at 11 a.m.: Storytime and activities featuring “Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody;” 2 p.m., celebrate Batman Day with activities and a comic book giveaway.
Thursday, Sept 20, 6:30 p.m., Bookworms Book Club for Young Readers.
Saturday, Sept. 22, 11 a.m., Storytime and activities featuring “Princess Save the World.”
Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m., Storytime and activities featuring “I am Neil Armstrong.”
Saturday, Oct. 6, 1 p.m., Storytime and book signing with author Denise Kaminsky featuring the “Nittany Lion” book series; 2 p.m, a live demo of the new Hatchibaby toy, plus activities and giveaways.
Saturday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m., book signing with author R. Anthony Giamusso featuring “Under a Veil of Gods.”
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2 p.m., Kids Book Hangout
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble Book Club to feature “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” vlogger Hank Green’s debut novel.
Thursday, Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m., Bookworms Book Club for Young Readers.
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2 p.m., Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary celebration.
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2 p.m., book signing with author John M. Alexander featuring “The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash.”
Friday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m., Polar Express Storytime.
For information about events at Barnes & Noble, call 570-846-6423.
Businesses damaged/destroyed by June 13 tornado in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
ARENA HUB PLAZA
Barnes & Noble: Announced it will reopen before Thanksgiving. Temporary pop-up store open in East End Center
Dick’s Sporting Goods: Remains closed
Eddie Bauer Outlet: Open
T.J. Maxx: Remains closed
Carter’s/OshKosh/B’Gosh: Reopened Aug. 2
Staples: Remains closed
PetSmart: Remains closed
Men’s Wearhouse: Open
WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP COMMONS
Tovan & Co. Diamonds: Opening a new location in Dallas in November.
America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses
Holiday Hair: Employees moved to Edwardsville location
GameStop: Hopes to rebuild
Sneaker King: Hopes to open another temporary or permanent location in Wilkes-Barre Twp.
ASHLEY FURNITURE HOMESTORE BUILDING
Ashley Furniture HomeStore: Relocating behind mall
Polish Pottery Pride: Moving to Wyoming Valley Mall
Music Go-Round: Moving to new location
Stations Grill: Announced July 7 it will close; sold off equipment
Color Junction Design and Print
OTHER MUNDY STREET BUSINESSES
Kurlancheek Home Furnishings: Condemned and demolished. Operating out of a temporary location in the former Gateway Cinema in Edwardsville.
U-Haul Offices & Storage: One building on the property was condemned and demolished; otherwise the business is open and renting trucks, trailers and self-storage units; selling and installing hitches, moving supplies etc. etc.
Pollack Nissan: Reopened six days after tornado; held “Tornado sale”
Teasers - Reopened in July
Lumber Liquidators: Reopened in June