Our View: September brings welcome rebirth of storm-damaged shopping areas

Usually it’s spring that brings signs of rebirth.

This year, the season of new growth seems to be starting in September, at least for Wilkes-Barre Township.

This morning, as you may have read, Barnes & Noble will reopen in the township at a temporary location in the East End Centre while its Arena Hub Plaza bookstore is being rebuilt following the EF-2 tornado that tore through the area on June 13.

The Eddie Bauer Outlet next door to Barnes & Noble already has reopened, and remodeling of other storm-damaged Arena Hub stores is well underway.

“Our goal is to have all reopened by the holidays,” Robert Tamburro, a partner in the company which owns the plaza told reporter Bill O’Boyle on Tuesday.

Dick’s Sporting Goods is close to reopening, Tamburro added, as are TJ Maxx, Staples and PetSmart.

We couldn’t be more thrilled, as the Mundy Street commercial corridor is an important economic, employment and social hub for many in the valley.

While everyone was grateful that the storm only resulted in minor injuries, the loss of jobs — even temporarily — and the potential loss of sales tax dollars could be damaging to the local economy.

Symbolically, too, the region needed some healing. The sight of familiar, popular stores and eateries smashed and shredded was a shock to the system.

We also know there is a lot more work left to do.

There is no word yet on the future of the adjacent Wilkes-Barre Township Commons, as its owner, Urban Edge Properties, has declined comment on the future of their properties, including a heavily damaged strip mall. Hardest hit was the building that housed Panera Bread, Tovon & Co., America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, LA Nails, Sneaker King, GameStop and Famous Footwear.

That building is still standing but was condemned shortly after the storm.

While its future remains unclear, Tovon owner and president Tommy Van Scoy Jr. has leased a new location miles away, in the Dallas Shopping Center.

In a separate development — which you can read about on today’s business page — Ford Family Auctions has relocated to the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming after some chaos that also stemmed from the storm.

Owner Jim Ford originally moved his business from Luzerne to a secondary building at the Wyoming Valley Mall in early July, but found that lease abruptly terminated by the mall’s owner to accommodate a storm-damaged retailer.

“You hit bumps in the road,” Ford told reporter Dan Stokes. “But it’s about how you react and move on.”

And so it has proven for many in the three months since wild winds tore a path of damage through the township.

Kurlancheek Home Furnishings, whose building on Mundy Street was all but destroyed, set up a temporary office and warehouse at the former Gateway Cinema Edwardsville.

We salute those individual entrepreneurs who have shown tenacity, such as Tamburro, Ford and Ronne Kurlancheek.

We salute Belfor Property Restoration of Allentown, the cleanup contractor hired by Tamburro to make Arena Hub look new again.

We salute Barnes & Noble, whose commitment to reopening at their original site has brought joy to many.

We salute the employees of the damaged businesses, who have endured their own hardships these past few months.

May Christmastime find us all enjoying many our favorite spots again with friends and family, helping support the local economy.

— Times Leader