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Small business owners like opportunity Scranton’s ‘First Friday’ provides

Amie Talarico serves a customer at the Dionysus Downtown while owner MJ Dougherty entertains at Scranton’s First Friday.

Submitted photo

SCRANTON – Despite rain soaked streets, downtown Scranton was alive with shoppers, fine arts enthusiasts, and those just seeking a night out on the town at the April “First Friday” event. Small business owners who participated saw it as an opportunity to foster the burgeoning urban lifestyle in the city.

MJ Dougherty, owner of the Dionysus Downtown which specializes in wines and other libations, said by 10 p.m. on Friday, his establishment was packed with First Friday revelers.

The event shows Scranton is business friendly and is establishing itself as “the city” of northeast Pennsylvania and the Pocono region.

“(First Friday) shows the city has energy,” Dougherty said.

He was not bashful about giving praise to Mayor Chris Doherty for the improvements in the city. A native of Lackawanna County, he remembers the city not so active when he was growing up. The improvements made in the city in recent are helping city businesses by drawing in visitors from outside the area, he said.

Dionysus opened in August of last year and is meeting Dougherty’s expectations. As a participant of several First Friday events, he said they have all been consistently active business evenings. He adds all of the businesses that participate complement one another and share customers.

Dougherty spent time in Europe where he got the idea of opening a wine and specialty drink establishment. Even though he took on a new venture just when the economy was tanking, he is confident business in Scranton will continue to grow.

The Dionysus Downtown provided the venue for a “Thinking Green” art theme where art made from recyclables and/or green materials was displayed. Rudy Morgan offered classical guitar music as well.

Dominic Saadi, owner of the City Café, participated in his initial First Friday this month. He decided to take advantage of the event because of its community appeal and its practical business sense. First Friday is a good way to bring people into the cafe and showcase your services and menu items, he said.

The City Cafe specializes in Mediterranean cuisine, specialty spices, coffees, desserts, and other eclectic specialties of the region, according to Saadi. The menu is concentrated on the “healthy” choices, he said, with a flair for nutrition and an emphasis on “world class” cuisine.

As part of First Friday, the City Cafe displayed local artwork including a “collaborative First Friday mural.”

Saadi agrees with Dougherty’s point Scranton has become very “progressive for new businesses.” Most of his existing clientele come from a more educated background although he is working to establish a following with the working people in the city. The First Friday will help get the message out that the specialty menu at the City Cafe is nothing to fear, he said.

Twenty-two businesses participated in the First Friday and the County of Lackawanna Transit System provided free trolley bus service between venues.

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