Pittston’s new Main Street coordinator Mary Kroptavich is 45, but she’s not too old to go back to school. Well, for a week anyway. Last week, Kroptavich was in Harrisburg for a training program at the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s Downtown Center.
What she learned at the program wasn’t new to her, but rather reinforcement for what she’s been doing since she was hired by the city in May — building a community-driven effort to promote and market special events and recruit and retain downtown businesses by creating committees to manage different tasks. An example is a Clean and Green committee, which, as the name implies, works to keep the downtown clean and green by planting trees and flowers.
Kroptavitch is the volunteer manager of the Art e Fekts Gallery on Main Street and owner of her own business, MPK Photography. Kroptavich said her sister, Karen Walsh-Emma, suggested Mary get involved with the art walk, which led to deeper involvement with the city’s downtown and eventually to the job as Main Street coordinator.
“My sister had JK Holly gift shop. I was working there. At the same time I took up photography she suggested I get involved with art walk.”
Kroptavitch, her sister, and two other siblings, grew up in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre with bells on their shoes, doing chores like mowing the lawn and shopping as early as age 6.
She said when her stay-at-home mom went outside she tethered Mary to the clothes line.
What was going on?
Her parents, the late Thomas and Maryann Walsh, were blind. But it didn’t stop them from getting educations and raising four sighted children. Her father graduated from Wyoming Seminary, Wilkes and the University of Scranton with a master’s degree in psychology. This was at a time when many blind people were institutionalized and it was thought it was not possible for them to marry and raise a family.
But Kroptavitch said her parents kept life as normal as possible. Her father was a Yankee fan and listened to the games on his Walkman. Her mother was a soap opera fan. He worked as an advocate for the blind and her mother was a homemaker.
“Do they even call them homemakers anymore,” she said with a chuckle. “I don’t know if that’s politically correct.”
Her father was blind from birth. Her mother had retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, a genetic eye disease. She had very limited vision, able to see shadows and movement in bright light when she was young, but was blind by the time she was 30.
Kroptavitch got back from Harrisburg on Friday and she is anxious to get back and implement what she learned at the Downtown Center in meetings with the city’s volunteer committees and entrepreneurs. The city is preparing an application to become a member of the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Main Street Program in 2020.
One of Kroptavitch’s favorite ongoing projects, in keeping with the city’s art theme, is a sculpture loop or park. Several sculptures — some donated, some loaned by Marywood University and some purchased by the Pittston Arts Council — will line an art loop trail on the path behind the fire station to the upper Tomato Festival lot.
In an interview with The Citizens’ Voice when she was hired in May, Kroptavich said, “We need to have more businesses, more retail business downtown.”
“For me, the main goal is the retention of the businesses that are here and bringing in more retail businesses, so that when people come down here for events — the art walks, the parades, all those activities the city has — it would be nice to incorporate the business, have them open, participating and benefitting,” she said.
Kroptavich lives in Duryea with her husband, Jim, and their three daughters, Paige, 14; Brooke, 12 and Sofia, 8.