WILKES-BARRE — 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.”