WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It’s a day workers and shoppers at a popular store knew for months would eventually come. Wednesday marked the last day of business at Bon-Ton at the Wyoming Valley Mall. As Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller shows us, staffers put on a brave face while they waited on customers for a final time.
“We’re going to rock and roll it like the best day ever,” shouted Mia McLean. In front of a scaled-back staff in a largely-depleted store, she rallied Bon-Ton workers she manages one last day. “Because you guys have been awesome! Awesome.”
It was one last day for this store that’s called Wyoming Valley Mall home since 1987 to sell its remaining merchandise. “They have some dresses that I had looked at earlier and now they’re even cheaper,” said Meredith Evans of Berwick who came shopping with her mother. While she was happy to find a bargain Ms. Evans said “I think it’s really sad.” Her mother Marilyn Evans of Berwick added, “I’m very sad. I love the Bon-Ton.”
It’s also sad also for employees including some like Tony Pirillo who worked here almost all of their professional lives. Mr. Pirillo started as a 14-year-old stock boy in 1976 when it was Pomeroy’s Department Store long before Bon-Ton bought it. While waiting on customers one last time Wednesday he said, “I made a lot of friends. That’s the best part. And the customers? A lot of them were real nice.”
For Dorothy Lehet of Kingston, working at Bon-Ton has been a family affair. She said she was hired in, “2002 when I was four months pregnant with him,” gesturing toward her 15-year-old son, Joseph. He volunteered at several Bon-Ton promotion events and hoped to work for the retailer when he turned 16. “Well, it’s just heartbreaking. I mean I just hate seeing it go down the drain,” he said.
But this site went out with a bang finishing tops among 31 regional Bon-Ton stores during a liquidation sales contest. It’s more than just clothing, cosmetics and jewelry that were big sellers during the liquidation. Fixtures like display tables were also hot items scooped by a couple of Wilkes-Barre Township Commons businesses devastated by the June tornado.
Wyoming Valley Mall management says it’s premature to say what will replace Bon-Ton as many staffers face their own uncertain future. Ms. McLean said, “I have a lot to, you know, be thankful for and you know it happened but we move ahead.”
Ms. McLean and some of her workers say they’ll take some time deciding what’s next. They’re looking forward to having their first Thanksgiving holiday off in many years.