The deadline to enter the Scranton Public Market contest is July 8.


An unusual success story inside one of Scranton’s most-watched commercial ventures showed management what’s possible.

Marketplace at Steamtown owner John Basalyga and his team are holding a contest to catch the next success after Amber Cipriani and her Electric City Art Studio proved unconventional businesses can take off at the Scranton Public Market, which occupies the former food court at the Marketplace.

“It really has opened our eyes to what the potential of the SPM could be,” General Manager Jenn Warnetsky said of Cipriani’s studio.

The Small Space, Big Dreams contest will give the winning business owner a complimentary one-year lease in a vendor stall and $5,000 in seed funding from Golden Mile Funding.

Winners get printing from local shops that make business cards and T-shirts and a one-year membership to the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

The Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton and social media consultant Socialocca will offer coaching. The winner gets promotional photography and free advertising time on local radio stations.

Cipriani won the Marketplace’s “Your Art Here” mural contest last year, a creative solution to liven up empty mall storefronts.

Earlier this year, the Hazleton Area School District art teacher, who lives in Scranton, opened her studio to teach classes for all ages, with special sessions for kids with disabilities.

Her arrival accelerates the daunting effort to transform the former chain retail hub into a lifestyle center.

All told, Marketplace officials say the contest winner goes home with $20,000 worth of free stuff and advice.

There are a few rules.

  • Applicants have to be local and produce most of their services or goods themselves.
  • They have to be able to fill a minimum number of business hours.
  • They should have all necessary city and state licenses and insurance by the Sept. 6 winner announcement event.
  • Those in the food business should already have their ServSafe certification in hand, Warnetsky said.
  • The application deadline is July 8.

Golden Mile Funding and the SBDC are vetting applications and the viable ones will have a chance to pitch before a judges panel. Second round finalists will prepare a pop-up shop in September when the winner will be chosen.

Sixteen of 29 available vendor stalls remain unfilled in the center of the food court. The biggest ones are filled.

The most recent addition, Amori Sushi, is ready to go, but waiting on permits from the city to open.

Contact the writer:; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twitter

Apply for Public Market contest

To apply for the Scranton Public Market Small Space, Big Dreams contest, visit to fill out an online application.

Applications are due Monday, July 8. Applicants must be able to attend contest events Aug. 2 and Sept. 6.