WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The closed Pier I Imports store in the Arena Hub Plaza did not stay vacant for long and is off to a sweet start.
Gertrude Hawk Chocolates moved into more than a third of the building and held a grand opening Saturday at its new store, which represents the era when the late Gertrude Hawk started the business in the 1930s.
“We’re happy to be here and we’re excited to introduce our new store design,” said Melanie Nardozzo, director of creative development and marketing for Gertrude Hawk Chocolates.
The store showcases historic items like chocolate molds from its museum in Dunmore, where its corporate headquarters is located.
It replaces another store that closed at the Wyoming Valley Mall. Gertrude Hawk’s other nearby location at 174 Mundy St. remains open.
Olivia Osbourne, junior graphic designer at Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, showed a wall she designed that features Gertrude Hawk Chocolates’ home office in Dunmore and the Market Street Bridge.
Customers enjoyed socially-distanced shopping Saturday ahead of Valentine’s Day while picking out their favorite goodies at the new store that also features an area where gourmet treats are hand-dipped
Gertrude Hawk Chocolates is known for its Smidgens but Nardozzo said the business also sells gourmet ice cream bars and she showed off redesigned boxed chocolates.
“We updated them to make them a little more gifty,” she said. “All of the selections inside have been reimagined.”
Robert Tamburro, trustee and general partner with TFP Limited, owner of the Arena Hub Plaza, said he is fortunate that Gertrude Hawk Chocolates moved into the space after Pier I Imports filed for bankruptcy and closed all its stores. He is still trying to lease about 5,900 square feet of space next to Gertrude Hawk.
He also leased space in the Arena Hub Plaza to Nanticoke residents John Beggs and Scott Brennan, who recently opened Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in the space previously occupied by retailer Avenue. He is trying to lease about 2,200 square feet of space next to the new spa.
“We had a good run with the tenants Pier 1 and Avenue but every time a door closes, another one opens,” Tamburro said. “It’s exciting to get two deals done during the pandemic so we feel blessed about that.”
Next to Mission BBQ on Mundy Street, Tamburro leased space to Blaze Pizza, a Pasedena, California-based fast-casual dining chain where customers can create their own pizza. Construction has started and it should take about four months, he said. In another development, a Dollar Tree store recently opened behind Mission BBQ.
The outdoor Arena Hub Plaza has continued to bring in new tenants while the Wyoming Valley Mall and enclosed malls throughout the U.S. have been struggling.
Tamburro said although the COVID-19 pandemic created some challenges, they were not “insurmountable” and he is grateful that new stores are opening.
“It was pretty incredible to be able to sign leases during the pandemic,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a brighter future.”