City Market closes Public Square store in Wilkes-Barre

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Jan. 12—WILKES-BARRE — City Market on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre has closed for good.

A small sign posted on the front door at 25 Public Square simply directs vendors to call for information.

Employees answering the phone said the store closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and referred questions to owner Christian Switzer.

When reached, Switzer said the last two years were challenging for the business.

“Many downtown workers have been working from home for the last two years,” Switzer said. “We are in the process of restructuring. This just isn’t a sustainable business plan anymore.”

Switzer purchased City market from from Chris Cawley shortly after it opened in June 2016. Switzer took over in October 2016.

According to news reports at the time, the original owner signed a 10-year lease for the property. The goal was to provide another choice for workers and students — most of which have been absent in the downtown since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The market and cafe offered meals to go, fresh vegetables and fruits, bakery items, meats, beer and a deli counter, among other food and beverage selections. In 2019 they added sushi.

The project had been in the works for approximately two years and cost more than a $1 million, according to news reports. The nearly 6,000 square-foot store was one of three franchises locally. The others are in downtown Scranton and another one in the former Connor’s Grillroom along the Memorial Highway in Dallas Township.

Previous efforts

In March 2016, faced with too-high construction costs, the first owner of the City Market Cafe considered abandoning plans to bring a grocery store to Public Square until Wilkes-Barre City stepped in with a $50,000 grant.

The money was part of the $500,000 in Local Share Account funds awarded to the city for downtown revitalization from gambling revenues at the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Plains Township.

The 6,000 square-foot market was added to the mix at the last minute to save it after owner Chris Cawley said he reached out to the city.

“We’re dependent upon that,” Cawley said of the state grant in 2016.

The market originally was going to be located in the former Hardware Bar properties next to the Dunkin Donuts on South Main Street, just off Public Square. But lease restrictions forced the market to move to the property formerly occupied by Arts Seen Gallery.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.