It’s not surviving, it’s thriving.
That’s the message that both borough and business officials in Clarks Summit are trying to convey despite the recent loss of four
Bunnell’s Hardware, Costa Drugs, Jim’s Place and Mamma Mia’s Pizza all closed their doors within the past few months. Despite the closings, officials are adamant that the borough is just fine.
“First of all, when a business goes out in Clarks Summit, a new one comes in,” said Clarks Summit Borough Manager Virginia Kehoe. “We’re not sitting here with a million vacant storefronts. There are building owners who get phone calls daily looking for rentals for businesses, so there is a market. The storefronts do get filled.”
According to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), while corporate America has been downsizing, the rate of small business start-ups has grown and the rate of small business failures has declined. The SBA also states that the number of small businesses has grown 49 percent nationally since 1982.
Borough mayor Patty Lawler said that the closures aren’t just happening in Clarks Summit, citing the recent closing of the Mary-Go-Round in Tunkhannock as an example.
“It is no reflection on the borough when a business leaves,” she said. “Retail is a huge responsibility; it isn’t that we don’t cooperate or it isn’t the people or town of Clarks Summit. It is a business decision on the business owner’s part to leave.”
Lawler, who once owned Lawler’s Affordable Elegance in Clarks Summit, admitted that she understands concerns and offered a solution.
“When other merchants see a store going, they can help market the town,” she said. “Who do you want there? Do you want it let up for grabs? We are in a very advantageous spot right now and, as mayor, I am taking every step to go out and meet with people to help market our town.”
Barry Kaplan, a co-owner of Everything Natural, a realtor with Classic Properties and the current president of the Abington Business and Professional Association (ABPA), sees the situation from a variety of perspectives.
“I’ve been here almost 30 years and in that time, it is always in a state of flux,” he said. “There are always things coming in and always things coming out. There are very few places that are consistent. There are times when businesses have a more difficult time and the street front looks like it is struggling more. But it isn’t; there’s no places really available to rent in town right now and what is available won’t last long.”
Clarks Summit Borough is also seeking increased dialogue with its merchants.
“We encourage merchants to tell us what they need and be realistic in what they need and what we can honestly do to help,” Kehoe said. “We cannot solve problems but we can try to assist in the solution.”
Kehoe added that borough meetings are open to the public and that all proposed ordinances are advertised before a vote is taken. Clarks Summit Borough Council meets the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the borough building, 304 S. State St.
Kaplan stressed that what Clarks Summit is experiencing is reminiscent of the typical ebb and flow of today’s business world.
“The business community is doing fine in the Abingtons; just like always,” he said. “Business is not a cakewalk, no business is here feeling like everything is rosy. Business is business; it is a challenge and, as a whole, the community is doing just fine. There are places going in and out.”