WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Repair work on the tornado-damaged Barnes & Noble store is well underway, and a corporate spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that the company remains committed to that site.
“Oh yes, absolutely we will reopen at that location,” Mary Ellen Keating said in an interview with the Times Leader. “That is an important store for us and for the community.”
The news comes as Luzerne County officials are planning an informational meeting Thursday morning for businesses affected by the storm. It will be held at 10 a.m. at the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, 185 Water St., Wilkes-Barre.
The store’s back wall and part of its side wall were blown off when an EF2 tornado tore across the plaza late Wednesday night.
On Friday, the walls remained torn open and exposed to the elements. By Tuesday, they had been repaired and were sealed once again.
Keating said her company has been working closely with the landlord — TFP Limited — but she couldn’t yet provide a date for when the store will reopen.
Robert Tamburro, trustee and general partner of TFP Limited — owners of the Arena Hub Plaza — said he has put together a good game plan and the progress is not surprising.
“We have a great organization here working on the reconstruction,” Tamburro said. “And a lot of good local people have also stepped up to help. It’s like a boxing match — you get knocked down, you get back up and start fighting again.”
Keating, who formerly worked at WBRE-TV and later at the Diocese of Scranton under then Bishop John O’Connor, said Barnes & Noble will dispatch representatives to the area to meet with Tamburro to get a handle on how long it will take to get the popular store reopened.
“We want to tell the folks there that we will rebuild and reopen,” Keating said. “We appreciate their loyal business and we know how important the store is to them and to the community.”
Keating also made a point to commend Joe Stager, one of the managers at the Arena Hub Store, who was on duty when the EF2 tornado struck just after closing time Wednesday night, tearing off the back wall of the building.
Stager recounted the night in a Times Leader story that ran in Saturday’s editions.
Stager, 47, has been heralded as a hero after he shepherded four employees to safety during the storm.
“We are very proud of Joe,” Keating said. “We can’t say enough about him.”
Help for employees
Christine Jensen, administrator at Pennsylvania CareerLink in Wilkes-Barre, said “several” of the workers displaced by the tornado have been to the office to seek help.
All those in need of assistance should contact CareerLink to let the office know they were affected by the tornado — whether they have lost their jobs temporarily or permanently as a result.
Jensen said her staff has been trying to contact all of the 23 employers of the tornado-affected businesses so they can compile a comprehensive list of the displaced workers. She wants to schedule a meeting with representatives of the employers to compile the list.
County EMA sets meeting
Thursday morning’s informational meeting for businesses is being organized by the county’s Emergency Management Agency, in conjunction with Wilkes-Barre Township officials. Affected businesses are asked to register for the meeting by emailing [email protected]
Representatives from the Department of Labor & Industry Rapid Response Coordination Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Luzerne County Community Development Office, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce will provide information about services available to businesses that may aid in their recovery process.
In addition to the meeting, the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is seeking information from affected businesses.
Businesses are asked to provide contact information to include an email address to [email protected] . Once the contact information is received, businesses will receive an estimated disaster economic injury worksheet which they will be asked to complete.
Jack Robshaw, planning specialist at EMA, said the agency has already been contacted by several businesses who intend to be at the meeting.
For more on Wednesday’s tornado, click here.