Ribbon cutting Amato’s next step in reviving shopping center

Last updated: July 26. 2014 11:09PM - 2720 Views
By James O’Malley jomalley@civitasmedia.com



Gabe's general manager Craig Nelson, left, greets 25-year Gabe's shopper Betty Hewlett and her granddaughter, Zoe Lashley, both of Baltimore, Maryland, as they enter the store in Wilkes-Barre Township on Saturday morning.Bill Tarutis | For The Times Leader
Gabe's general manager Craig Nelson, left, greets 25-year Gabe's shopper Betty Hewlett and her granddaughter, Zoe Lashley, both of Baltimore, Maryland, as they enter the store in Wilkes-Barre Township on Saturday morning.Bill Tarutis | For The Times Leader
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WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The spanking new Gabe’s store in the East End Centre held its grand opening Saturday, complete with a ribbon cutting, breakfast, t-shirts and prizes.


And according to one Gabe’s veteran, the discount clothing retailer’s newest location stands proudly with the rest.


Betty Hewlett, of Baltimore, Maryland, said she’s been a loyal Gabe’s shopper for 25 years, and came to Wilkes-Barre just for the grand opening.


She said she heard about the opening a few days ago, and made the snap decision to attend the event.


“I told my daughter, ‘let’s get on the move,’” she said.


Hewlett said the staff are approachable, the store is attractive and the prices are right.


Developer and former drag racer Joe Amato said he’s been in the store the last few days during its soft open, and its inventory changes constantly.


“They get a new truckload every day,” he said. “The mix is never the same.”


And more importantly, he added, his family enjoys the shopping experience.


Amato, who owns a number of retail spaces — including the Gateway Shopping Center in Edwardsville and properties in downtown Wilkes-Barre — purchased the Wilkes-Barre Township shopping center in March.


“We’re excited about bringing the East End Centre back to life again,” Amato said.


Recently, he said, he’s been meeting with tenants interested in opening a restaurant in the former Chi-Chi’s location. He said he’s also in talks with a business to move into the former Beiter’s/Ames/Hills location, which would create a second anchor store in the once beleaguered shopping center.


His team has been working to improve the appearance and condition of the East End Centre for possible tenants, Amato said, and he thinks Gabe’s will prove instrumental in attracting the missing piece: traffic.


CEO Ken Seipel said after extensive research, all signs pointed to Wilkes-Barre as a perfect fit for Gabe’s.


“It is our kind of community,” he said. “All the demographics match up.”


Seipel said the new store was more than a year in the making, and until now, the nearest Gabe’s locations were in Harrisburg and Newark.


But research aside, individuals of every demographic and income bracket have one thing in common, he said. “People like to save money.”


John Maday, of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said his experience with Gabe’s tells him the store isn’t simply interested in making money from the community. Instead, he said, the company seems committed to it.


“They want to be integrated into it,” he said.


Maday is also executive director of the Riverfront Parks Committee, and said Gabe’s was quick to volunteer a team to help set up for Chalkfest at the River Common in early October.


Gabe’s will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.


 
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