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PLYMOUTH — Red’s Subs has been a Plymouth institution for generations.

Pausing from cooking up cheesteak beef Friday morning in his shop, “Red” Carver considered how the borough’s commercial heart has changed since he went into business in 1963.

“Main Street has changed big time,” Carver said. “Back then we had stores all over, bakery shops and everything.”

Now? Not so much, as many storefronts sit vacant.

“It’s a lot of hard work without the stores,” Carver said. “I still do very good, but a lot of my business comes from out-of-town.

“I’d like to have more stores,” he added. “That’s what we need.”

Carver is not alone, and borough officials would like to hear from residents, businesspeople and organizations who have ideas about how to improve the community.

A series of meetings will be held to gather input to help form a strategy for crafting Plymouth’s future, with the first one scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of the Wyoming Valley West High School on West Main Street.

“We hope many come so that they may have an opportunity to voice what they would like to see our community become,” said Holly Spece, borough secretary/treasurer. “The hope is that people come with a positive attitude and are ready to be part of the solution for the betterment of our town. The success of this effort depends on the cooperation among residents, businesses and organizations. We all need to work together to make Plymouth great again.”

Spece said Julie Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, will be facilitating Plymouth Borough’s public meetings. PDC primarily utilizes the National Main Street Center’s model for success.

Spece said PDC provides outreach, technical assistance and educational services in order to assist communities in revitalizing their central business districts and surrounding communities.

“They have been successful in developing strategic partnerships with local and statewide organizations in order to further their mission in promoting community revitalization and reinvestment,” Spece said.

Plymouth Borough Council and Plymouth Alive are working with PDC to develop a strategic plan and vision to revitalize the community’s Main Street.

Monday’s meeting will bookend what is expected to be a very busy week for Plymouth, as the 16th annual Plymouth Alive Original Kielbasa Festival kicks off Friday and runs through Saturday.

Terry Womelsdorf, president of Plymouth Alive, said the organization is “100 percent” behind the revitalization project and he encourages all interested people to attend Monday night’s meeting at WVW.

“Our next endeavor is getting involved with borough officials and getting the revitalization project moving forward,” Womelsdorf said. “Plymouth Alive will partner with the borough and PDC in Harrisburg. We want the people of Plymouth to let us know what they want to improve the borough. We will put all the ideas together and go in the direction the people want.”

Important to Plymouth

Marie Ondish hopes to be there.

She and husband Frank own The Polish Connection, a diner next door to Red’s which they opened about three years ago in the former Dwyer’s.

“I think it’s very important to Plymouth,” Ondish said of the meeting. “We need a facelift. We need to get people to come into Plymouth and bring business back to our community.”

Like Carver, Ondish said Plymouth has changed a lot since she was young, and the loss of businesses has been a major factor.

Nevertheless, The Polish Connection is doing well and is often busy, as it was at lunchtime on Friday. One of their challenges, Ondish said, is lack of parking.

“Parking is our biggest problem here, unfortunately,” she said. “But Dwyer’s was here for 55 years, and if he survived, we can do it. People are finding their way.”

Likewise, Carver suggested that people definitely find their way to his shop, but that everyone on Main Street would do better if the parking situation were improved.

“Get rid of the parking meters,” he said. “I know the borough makes money on it, but it’s chasing people out of town.”

About the meetings

The meetings are set for this Monday, as well as Sept. 9, Oct. 7, Nov. 4, and Dec. 2. and all will begin at 7 p.m.

“This is not only a borough council affair, it is a community affair that ne to be done as a complete whole to ensure its success,” Spece said. “Everyone must take advantage of this opportunity to let their voices be heard to help improve Plymouth.”

Spece said PDC’s mission is to build and support the capacity of local nonprofit organizations, municipalities and individuals to enhance the overall well-being and sustainability of Pennsylvania’s communities.

They achieve the mission by engaging local community leaders and volunteers, and educating them, to advance the sense of place, quality of life and economic vitality of the Commonwealth’s downtowns, traditional neighborhood business districts and nearby residential areas.

Spece said that over the last four years, the borough applied for funding for many paving projects, the Main Street Revitalization project, the Community Park Project, and the Beverly Drive Stormwater project.

“All the projects we applied for were to improve the quality of life for our community,” Spece said.

Currently, Spece said the borough is working with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which provided Plymouth with $15,000 to install a new bus shelter.

Spece said the Main Street Revitalization project is still a work in progress and borough officials hope to continue to the third phase on a portion of the Main Street so it may become more marketable for economic development.

Spece said borough council has also been active in trying to eliminate blight throughout the community.

“It leaves a costly burden and a poor morale on the borough and its effects are observed,” Spece said. “By drafting a plan, we will be able to know exactly what the community wants to see when it comes to making improvements on our Main Street and throughout the borough.”

Spece said once the five meetings with Pennsylvania Downtown Center conclude, PDC will draft a plan of action and steps to complete the plan. She said PDC has guided the borough to many different funding opportunities to apply for in hope of moving forward with the proposed plan.

“Success of this initiative relies heavily on the residents, businesses and organizations of our borough,” Spece said. “Their input is not only suggested, but it is absolutely necessary when drafting the community strategic plan and vision.”

Scott Cannon, of Video Innovations and a borough resident, said information on the five meetings and the program can be found on the Plymouth Borough website and Facebook page.

For more information, Spece suggests people go to:

• padowntown.org

• Or, www.mainstreet.org/mainstreetamerica/theapproach

Back at The Polish Connection, Ondish expressed hope that the meetings will help improve life and business in her hometown.

Plymouth’s a beautiful place to live. It was very safe back when I was born. You could sleep without the doors being locked,” she said. “I believe in this town.”

By Bill O’Boyle and Roger DuPuis

boboyle@timesleader.com

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.