October is Women’s Small Business month. According to Census.gov, 19.9% of all businesses in America are women owned. In Pittston, the percentage of women owned or co-owned skyrockets to nearly 70%. Why is Pittston so desirable for women’s small businesses, and what impact do they have on Pittston’s economy?
“In the ’90s when the future of Pittston looked bleak, I knew it could be revitalized, and we could create a thriving city again. Fortunately, there were a lot of exceptional women who bought into the vision, expanded it, and worked alongside of me and Mayor Klush to turn that vision into reality,” said Mayor Michael Lombardo. “Lori Nocito and Rose Randazzo, obviously, come to everyone’s minds. So, I would say Pittston has always been associated with strong women who are vital to our growth and success.”
“Based on our percentage of women’s small businesses, I would say we are doing something right. I’m grateful that they have chosen to be not just an important part of our community, but a driving force behind it,” Lombardo added.
Jane Chropowicki, owner of Main Street’s Merle Norman, realized in March 2020 that most of Pittston’s small businesses were women owned or co-owned, and wanted to spotlight those women. Chropowicki approached Main Street Manager Mary Kroptavich, and the two designed a plan to celebrate Pittston’s female entrepreneurs.
“Women are a significant driving force behind Pittston’s success,” said Chropowicki. “Unfortunately, we never got to shed a spotlight on these women entrepreneurs because the pandemic interfered with our plans.”
Fast forward to 2022 where Pittston has not only weathered the worst of the pandemic with COVID-19 era businesses now celebrating anniversaries, but they are also celebrating more new businesses emerging.
“Women owned businesses in Pittston include retail, restaurants, health and fitness, beauty, professionals, and other services that have helped shape the landscape of the city,” stated Chropowicki.
“It’s an honor to work alongside many amazing women entrepreneurs whose visions and goals are closely related. This creates the opportunity for great collaborations that add to Pittston’s progress,” Kroptavich said.
There are a variety of reasons that women have chosen to open their businesses in Pittston.
Having grown up in Exeter and Pittston, Brittney Eramo, “always knew that if someday I were to open a business, it would be rooted in my hometown. I believe that in order to have a successful business, you don’t have to leave home.” Brittney and mother, Sandy, are on the cusp of opening Grace & Park — a lifestyle boutique. Offering everything from activewear, loungewear, and work outfits to homeware, Grace & Park is a one-stop shop for gifts, where their trained associates are ready to help. Previously an online business, they are making the leap from “clicks to bricks.” Celebrate their grand opening at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, at their new location at 14 S. Main St.
Kristine Ortiz of Luxe Beauty Studio saidPittston was the place to be for he as well.
“I always loved Pittston’s holiday events. As more businesses were emerging, I saw the positive changes happening here, and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “Four months in, I’ve loved every second in Pittston, and I enjoy my neighbors at Bonilla Beauty and Fresh Aesthetics.”
Mary Pat Melvin-Scarantino, licensed social worker, saw a need in Pittston nearly 40 years ago, and forged a path.
“No one was offering counseling services at the time, so I thought I’d be the pioneer. Over the decades, women have been fundamentally integral in shaping Pittston as we know it today,” she said.
LBC Distillery owners Maryann Lang and husband, Jonathan, believe that every empty bottle should be filled with memories. Located in the Waterfront Warehouse, their “distillery hand-crafts all products in small batches, and offers award-winning rums, vodkas, gins, a rotating selection of flavored liquors, and special seasonal cocktail-themed events,” she explained.
Seeing first hand what Pittston had to offer, Lang was interested in becoming part of the Pittston landscape — but then the pandemic hit.
“Mayor Lombardo and Mary Kroptavich remained interested in us, and that gave us confidence. They make you believe in yourself. We just celebrated our first year in Pittston this September,” Lang stated. “Pittston operates outside of the ‘boys club.’ There are so many women in businesses and on boards, so you have events for everyone — adult nights, family nights, free events, singles’ night out, and that just isn’t possible without women.”
“It’s an exciting time to be a women in growing leadership, business and in Pittston. Terrifying and exciting. Do it. It’s worth every step. We lacked community, and are grateful to have found that in Pittston,” said Lang.
How have women strengthened the economic side of Pittston?
“I believe that women bring a different perspective with new ideas, and that has helped to meet more consumer needs, giving people a reason to spend their money downtown,” said Gina DeMuro Kenney, manager of DeMuro’s Pizza. “It has definitely created a different, exciting buzz to the city.”
DeMuro’s Pizza is one of Pittston’s longest running businesses with the DeMuro family proudly serving the Greater Pittston community since 1977.
Sabatelle’s Market, also opened in 1977, operates the family business under the motto: “Stay the course.”
“We do what we do, and are grateful that the community always supports us,” said owner Jane Sabatelle.
“Women have good ideas, persevere and stick with goals,” Sabatelle said. “Main Street is like NYC. There is always something going on. Women plan events, and people come. It’s a real win-win.”
Attorney Rose Randazzo, former Pittston Main Street manager, explained there is a long history of women at work in Pittston.
“Women have historically strengthened the economy in Pittston. The mothers and grandmothers of this generation of women entrepreneurs were the backbone of our community. We literally had a women’s workforce on Main Street when the garment industry was at its peak. Often times, these women were the breadwinners in their families, so that entrepreneurial spirit is in our DNA. You can see that many of us have followed suit.”
Randazzo added, “Many of us had opportunities in bigger cities, but sometimes success is not about where you are; rather, it’s how you feel about where you are.”