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Church and estate: Wyoming Area grads operating estate sale business out of former St. Joseph's Church in Wyoming

High school buddies Jared Mazurkivich, Wyoming Area Class of 2010, and Ryan O’Donnell, Class of 2009, started a business they call Mazell Estate Liquidations, using the first and last three letters of their respective names. For a few years they ran estate sales from the homes of their clients. Last year they leased the old St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Street in Wyoming.

Talking in the church one afternoon, Mazurkivich said, “We wanted to do right by our clients,” and pointed to a large highend oak china closet. “This is an example. In one weekend I couldn’t sell this unless I let it go for $100. They originally paid $3,700 and we didn’t feel that was right. Now we can bring things here and display them.” Along the same line he pointed out a desk described as “mid century modern.” It is tagged at $600.

Mazurkivich explained he broke into the estate business while working at an autism behavioral service business in Exeter.

“Out of high school I was working with young adults with autism, when the woman I worked for had the idea to start a little store teaching job skills. How to run a cash register, stock shelves, things like that. We were buying, selling and trading antiques, furniture and knickknacks on a smaller scale. More and more people were coming into the store saying ‘I don’t have one or two items to sell, I have whole estate.’”

The demand sparked an idea. He and O’Donnell started Mazell, doing on-site estate sales. After a couple years they started looking for a site to store, display and sell estate items.

“I had a passing acquaintance with the owner of the church. He mentioned he was looking for a tenant and gave us a reasonable deal for a lease,” Mazurkivich explained. “At first I was hesitant. Then I looked at it this way: the building was nine years empty. The sidewalk and stairs are cracked, paint is chipping. It was going in the direction of a blighted building. We hope to turn it into something to benefit the community, instead of it becoming an eyesore.”

Most of the problems with the building are cosmetic rather than structural, and Mazell plans to improve the building over time as money and time are available. “Heating bills in winter are pretty rough,” Mazurkivich said. “You have to heat a large space with tall ceilings. It’s something we factored in.”

Once they signed the lease they advertised on Facebook, in newspapers, and at mazellestateliquidations.com, where they have 2,000 email subscribers. So far they have had five estate sales in the church. Large items, like furniture, are displayed in the outer and front and rear aisles. Smaller items are lined up on the pews.

There’s a saying in the industry: “Brown is down,” meaning oak furniture, for example, doesn’t have the resale potential it once did. A lot of young couples starting out would rather go to Ikea. But there are still young people who are into vintage furniture.

“A good example: a young couple out of college and with decent jobs saw an ad for a dining room set. We ended up furnishing their whole apartment for under $1,000,” he said.

Sometimes families who are breaking up estates might call 1-800-Got Junk? and pay to have the house cleaned out and ready for sale, whereas Mazell will conduct a sale and then clean it out.

“That way they can walk away with a check rather than a bill,” he said.

Right now that’s what Mazell is doing — estate sales and junk removal. They hope to expand by opening a second location and renting dumpsters, though they are not ready for that just yet.

As things are, Mazell has what Mazurkivich describes as “A wide spectrum of items.” Pointing to the front of the church he said, “We have a kitchen set up there for $40 and we have one for $650. High, low or in the middle we try to accommodate.”


West Pittston: Corpus Christi offers help with back-to-school shopping

Probably my least favorite part of summer growing up was that stretch in late July to early August when all of the back-to-school commercials came back on TV. However, as I’ve gotten older, I learned to respect what they were trying to do. Yes, it was still summer — kids worked nine months for those three months of freedom — but at some point you have to begin to prepare for the new school year. Starting the school year with the necessary supplies promotes learning and boosts self-esteem. You can’t argue with logic, and the earlier you prepare, the better.

Financially-strapped families often struggle with purchasing supplies children need to begin school. To offer a little bit of help to those in need in our community, Corpus Christi Parish is once again holding its back-to-school drive, sponsored by the social concerns committee. To donate, simply pick up any school supplies that would be needed for kindergarteners through teens in high school, and drop them off at the rectory.

Here’s what else is happening around town:

Corpus Christi news

Corpus Christi Parish has the ability to stream Masses to the basement of Immaculate Conception Church. In the event that extra seating is needed, an usher will seat you in that area. At the end of Mass, communion will be distributed downstairs.

Corpus Christi has a dedicated group of volunteer ushers and sanitizers who have been attending every Mass, funeral and baptism to seat people and afterward sanitize the church. The church could use some additional help. To help, please contact Jerry Yakobitis at 570- 592-8260 or Jim Zardecki at 610-207-9004.

Volunteers also are needed to assist people in attendance at baptisms or funerals who are not familiar with the church. Contact Funeral Ministry Coordinators Barbara Frankovich at 570-655-2365 or Rosalie Bugelholl at 570-654-1356, or Baptismal Ministry Coordinator Maryann Matysczak at 570-693-1216.

Valley Alliance Church

Valley Alliance Church conducts Sunday morning worship from 10:30 a.m. to noon, offering a time of contemporary worship, prayer and sound Biblical instruction. Junior church occurs concurrently with the Sunday service. Nursery is available during services.

Prayer and Bible study are offered from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. This is the church’s mid-week service, offering the chance to come together in a time of worship, prayer and Bible study. Instruction is intended to help build and strengthen families.

Cherry Blossom golf tournament

The West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival will sponsor a golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 22, at the Emanon Country Club, 543 Old State Road, Falls. Tee times start at 11 a.m. Cost is $90 per golfer, which includes 18 holes of golf with cart, commemorative gift bag, food voucher, dinner and refreshments, plus live entertainment. The tournament is captain and crew format.

Hole sponsors are $150, which includes information on the West Pittston Cherry Blossom 50th Anniversary hole sponsor sign.

To sign up or for information, contact Gina Malsky at 570-351-1466 by Aug. 1.

History walk

West Pittston Historical Society and West Pittston Library are once again partnering to host a West Pittston History Walk. The walks feature discussion of the architecture and history of the homes and other significant structures along the path of the walk. This walk, at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 24, will cover the lower end of Susquehanna Avenue from the old armory to the Fort Jenkins Bridge. Anyone interested should meet at Susquehanna and Atlantic avenues.

Library news

West Pittston Library will offer the following activities:

Summer Reading ... for Adults! — Don’t feel left out of the summer reading fun. Adults also can check out books during the eight weeks of the library’s Tails & Tales Summer Reading Program. Get tickets for each checkout and each program attended and enter to win a raffle basket at the end of the summer.

As part of the summer reading program, the library is proud to partner with Luzerne County SPCA as a donation point for toys, food and supplies. The SPCA will be accepting donations at the library through Aug. 21, during normal business hours.

The library will host an American Red Cross blood drive from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, July 30.

Donating blood is a vital community service that you can do safely and securely with the American Red Cross. Use redcross.org to sign up for a time to donate and complete the questionnaire beforehand to shorten your wait time.

Parks and Recreation

West Pittston Parks and Recreation Board has resumed in-person meetings. The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4, at the municipal building.

Upcoming meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 1, Oct. 6, Nov. 4 and Dec. 1.

Any person with a disability requiring special accommodations to attend these meetings should notify the borough secretary’s office at 570-655-7782 as early as possible prior to these meetings.

John Bubul writes about West Pittston every week. To list an item, email jbubul@pittstonprogress.com or call 570-301-2187 by Monday.

The summer of Gennaro

Although I had to smile at reading a blurb about the San Gennaro Festival in last Sunday’s New York Daily News, I didn’t realize there was a column here that wanted to be written. It dawned on me a couple of hours later.

I should have seen it coming though. The piece on the festival in Little Italy was in a section of the paper — meaning not the sports pages — that I typically ignore.

Enter someone shouting a big hello to me as I began my morning walk later at the Martin L. Mattei Educational Complex. “It’s Karen,” she called. “From the post office.” And I instantly remembered all the times she took care of me when sending packages to my kids.

Karen said she was waiting for three girlfriends to play tennis. “C’mon,” she added, “I’ll walk with you until they get here.”

Walking goes better when there’s someone to talk with, and the time flew as we circled the parking lot several times. Our conversation traveled all over the place, eventually landing on, in Karen’s words, “A young man in my neighborhood I see teaching his little girl tennis. His name is, uh, ....”

“Let me guess,” I jumped in. “Gennaro?”

“That’s it!” she exclaimed, looking more than a little surprised.

“He goes by Jerry?” I continued.

“Right,” she said. “His daughter is Lu. I gave her a tennis ball one day.”

I told her I had seen Gennaro and Lu (short for Luciana) on those very tennis courts just a few days earlier. What I didn’t say is her bringing up his name out of the blue affirmed two themes that frequently work their way into my writing. One is that everyone around her is connected, and two, is that there are no such things as coincidences.

Upon seeing me warmly greet a new colleague from Pittston at the college one day, an administrator, who did not grow up around here, but is learning about us fast, said, “I’m convinced everyone from Greater Pittston knows each other.”

I gave her my stock response, which goes something like this. You know that theory about six degrees of separation? That everyone in America is only six acquaintances away from knowing everyone else? Well, in Greater Pittston, it’s only a degree-and-a-half. Give us six, and we’re related.

Then there’s the coincidence thing. My son, who’s always trying to bring me back down to earth, tells me coincidences are just coincidences. But I ascribe to the notion that they are God’s way of talking to us.

So, when Karen brings up Gennaro, after I had just read the word Gennaro in the paper, after I had just seen Gennaro on the tennis court, I cannot help but step back and contemplate what might be going on. Especially since there’s even more to this Gennaro thing. It goes back to the Fourth of July.

My wife and I went to Wilkes-Barre that morning to cheer on our niece Alicia, who, as always, was running in the annual YMCA Bernie Hargadon Memorial Run. And who did we bump into? Gennaro, pushing 4-year-old Lu and her 2-year-old brother Mateo in a double stroller. His wife, and their mom, Erykah, was running the 5-K.

In case you aren’t keeping track, that’s four Gennaros in 15 days. Coincidence? I think not.

Gennaro, by the way, is Gennaro Zangardi. I know him since he was a kid playing baseball, and I know his parents, Alfonso (Al) and Barbara (Stella) Zangardi since before they were married. I also know his sister Maria and brother Al.

Gennaro recently became an administrator in the Pittston Area School District, but before that, he was a teacher.

One semester, I taught a college public speaking class right at Pittston Area and it turned out to be in “Mr. Zangardi’s” classroom. I learned firsthand how much his students love him. I was not surprised.

Since the class met right after the school day ended, I always brought a container of candy — typically, Swedish fish, peanut butter cups, and assorted mini candy bars — to give the kids a little boost.

When class ended, a few of the students would take the leftover candy and spell something with it on “Mr. Z’s” desk. Messages like, “Hi, Mr. Z,” or even “We love you.”

Here’s one more coincidence. I called Gennaro’s dad to ask if he thought his son would mind me writing about him. “

Actually,” Al said, “I think he’d be honored.”

When I told him about seeing Gennaro at the Bernie Hargadon run, Al said he and Bernie’s daughter Sara (Michaels) once worked together in the county probation office.

What does all this mean?

I’m not sure. But I suspect I haven’t seen the last of Gennaro Zangardi this summer.

Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.