Sunday, February 12, 2017

Vgogh helps preserve memories

Kingston business specializes in custom framing


When someone chooses to have something properly framed, they are, in a sense, also making a statement. They are saying, "This is important to me. This has value to me. This is something I want to preserve. This is something I want to display."

It is a meaningful gesture, and though the reasons for the framing may vary from sentimental value to actual value, Vgogh Gallery & Custom Framing, located at 281 Wyoming Avenue in Kingston, treats them all with respect and care. The business, pronounced "V-Go," opened in 2006 and is owned and operated by Ariane Marsico.

A native of Scranton, Marsico moved to Dallas while in high school. Later, while doing a marketing internship with Showcase Art and Framing, a New Jersey-based company, she discovered a great appreciation for all-things-framing.

"It was a two-month summer internship, and I just feel in love with it," she says. "I love everything, from the manufacturing to the preserving of memorabilia. And that's really what we do. We do frame art, of course. Everybody does. But we mainly frame artifacts, or things that people don't want to get destroyed by light or the elements, or things that people want to display, such as accomplishments. That's mainly what comes through the door."

Marsico says that when people choose to frame something, it's usually not only to properly preserve it for themselves, but for generations to come.

"They're often getting it framed for the purpose of passing it down," she says. "It's usually family photos, which we can restore. And they may have never seen those photos whole, as they originally were. With all of the digital advances, we're able to restore things to their original form. A lot of the photos from this area are from the flood (of 1972), so they have a lot of mold damage, or they've faded, and we're able to bring 99-percent of them back. We've had people cry at the counter, because it's the first time they're seeing their ancestors."

Marsico says all sorts of other items arrive at the store for framing every day. One recent job involved a collection of vintage soda cans. Another included World War II memorabilia. And some come from the world of sports.

"I'm a huge sports fan, so all of the sports memorabilia that comes in, I'm always excited about," she says. "We had a Derek Jeter signed photo come in that was of him touching the sign in the Yankee clubhouse that reads 'I thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.' I've always loved that photo. That was for the Misericordia University golf tournament, and it came right from Yankee Stadium."

Though Vgogh's primary focus is custom framing, it also still hosts a few exhibits each year.

"Originally, we were going to be an outlet for a lot of local artists, but there's not a big demand for fine arts in the area," says Marsico. "But we still host two large exhibits. Usually there's a July show and a show that runs from November through the first of the year. We've hosted everybody from the Colored Pencil Society to the Wyoming Valley Art League and a lot of the well-known local artists."

Marsico, 28, and her son, Noah, live in West Pittston. She says Vgogh has a staff of seven, including two full-time framers, and adds that word-of-mouth and referrals have been her best form of advertising. Being located on Wyoming Avenue, where thousands pass by each day, has also been helpful. She says she still gets great satisfaction when customers come in to pick up their items and marvel at how nice they appear after being properly framed.

"That's the rewarding part," she says. "And that's a new experience every time."

Info: (570) 371-7766 or

Chic Chic Marketplace opens storefront in Forty Fort

Freshly catered foods, local farm products make the business a unique one-stop shop  


Jessica Zielen and Megan Mould have been cooking together for years. It is one of their great passions. And through their business, the Chic Chic Marketplace, they not only get to cook and cater every day, but they also help other local food vendors sell their products. It’s a perfect combination for the two friends and business partners, and with a recent move and expansion to a new location on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort, the future is looking bright.

The first incarnation of the business was founded nearly 10 years ago, when Zielen began cooking soups at home and selling them at area businesses. Such work earned her the nickname “The Soup Chic,” and she eventually also started selling her soups at farmers’ markets. Later, with a former business partner, she launched a private catering business, working out of Kingston, and she also ran the food cafĂ© at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA. Through it all, she realized that what she loved the most was cooking and meeting other vendors at farmers’ markets. Working with Mould, the two launched the Chic Chic Marketplace, which combined their own catering services with a distribution service for other local food vendors. Foods - which were ordered online through the business website - were either delivered directly to customer’s homes or could be picked up at Chic Chic’s kitchen, which was located in Kingston. Eventually, as the business began to grow and it found itself working with about 25 different vendors, the need arose for an actual storefront, or a true marketplace.

Thus, the recent move to Forty Fort.

“It was working as a concept, but we realized the missing piece of the puzzle was having the actual storefront, where people can come in, see the products, and ask questions about the products,” says Zielen. “We also wanted to be a more visible part of the community, because a lot of times, I think we were just out of sight, out of mind. Even though people were interested in us and liked the concept of what we were doing, it just seemed inaccessible to them in some way, or abstract.”

Such is no longer the case. With its new location at 970 Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort, the Chic Chic Marketplace is now exposed to plenty of drive-by traffic every day. And though orders can still be placed online, customers can now stop in to see the products for themselves.

“The website is still up,” says Zielen. “You can still order everything through the website and set up for a delivery or a pick-up, and we still have many customers that do that. But, also, you can now just stop in at anytime and see what we have in house.”

Store hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Products include several varieties of eggs, poultry, milks, meats, yogurts, cheeses, breads, coffees and many more.  There are also natural homemade beauty products.

“What we’re trying to do is make an old-fashioned corner store,” says Zielen. “You can come to us and you can get the basics, but you can also get some really unique products. And it’s all local, just like it would have been 100 years ago. It’s an old concept that we’re trying to update. And in addition to all of these unique products, we also cook fresh every single day.”  

A new catering menu at the Chic Chic Marketplace is posted to its website each week. For those interested in specific items, pre-orders would be placed by Sunday for distribution or pick-up on Wednesday. Customers may also simply visit the store at anytime to purchase items on that week’s menu, though an online pre-order will guarantee you the product you’re interested in. So far, Zielen says that less three months after opening the storefront, business has been brisk and things are going well.

“The best part of it is that it’s a true representation of what we’ve been trying to do for so long.” she says. “Before this, the only thing that we were able to do was to try and talk and explain, whereas  now people come and see it and say, ‘OK. Now I get what you’ve been trying to do. I see the products.’ And they’re curious, and they’re asking questions. It’s just a really good space to interact with people and get those conversations going.”   

Zielen says that both she and Mould not only find running their own business to be very fulfilling, but they also enjoy – through their store -helping other area businesses succeed.

“We’re trying to do something different,” she says. “We’re trying to source local. And we’re trying to provide you with a really good, wholesome, cost-effective meal. I’m passionate about it. And when people come in and ask questions - ‘What is this product, and why should I buy it?’ - and I get to explain it to them, and then I see the wheels turn in their head, and I see it click, and I see that they understand why it’s so important to support these people in our community and keep these good things in our community – that’s very satisfying.”      

On the web:     

Torony’s Giant Hot Dogs honors family tradition

 Roberta Torony and Gary Okun 

Plains business, established in 1952, is now in a new location


If you visit Torony’s Giant Hot Dogs today, a sampling of one of their legendary foot-longers probably wouldn’t taste much different than it did some 64 years ago. And that is exactly how its owners and customers like it.  

The business, which is owned by Roberta Torony, Jeanne Torony and her husband, Gary Okun, was first opened by Torony’s parents, John and Eleanor, in 1952. It was originally a stop-and-go shack-style establishment, located on Highway 315 in Plains. And it quickly became one of the most popular hot dog stands in the region.  

“It was the year they got married,” says Roberta. “And they were seasonal. They typically opened from the week after Easter until the last week before the first snow fall, sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. And we did that for many, many years.”

In 1997, Torony’s moved to East Main Street in Plains, not far from the side entrance to Mohegan Sun Pocono, near Eddie’s Diner. It remained there for 19 years. In May of this year, it relocated to 1325 N. River Road in Plains, inside the Tuft-Tex Complex. Roberta says shifting locations has never been a big issue for the family, especially since the hot dog business is such a big part of their lives.
“It was always kind of part of our blood and part of our culture,” she says. “We grew up with it.  I can remember back, as early as maybe nine years old, we were always there. We were always family. Our earliest job was pouring soda. As time went on, it was always the four of us.”

Changes to road structures in Plains helped facilitate both the 1997 move and the more recent one. But change can have its advantages. For one, with plenty of indoor seating, Torony’s is now open year-round. And it’s busier.

“It’s rekindled a knowledge of our business,” says Roberta. “I think when we moved to East Main Street, we faded a little bit. We didn’t have that impulse stop. When we were on the highway, it was very easy. The lights would be on, the shudders would be open and the stools would be out, and that was a clear indication that we were open. Now, I’m graced with hearing a lot of stories that go back to the old shack. People will come in and say, ‘My mom and dad took us there when we were kids.’ ”

Okun, who married into the business in 1985, agrees.

“Now, we’re more centrally located,” he says. “Before, we were up on one side of Plains. Now, we’re more towards the center, and we’re closer to a lot of people on the other side of the river, so it brings a lot more people in.  We’ve also regained that impulse stopper. A lot of people will see the sign and pull in.”    

In addition to hot dogs, Torony’s also offers, hamburgers, sandwiches, sausages and chicken dishes. The hot dogs, which they buy from a meat-packing plant in Rochester, come with a signature taste that dates back several decades.

“We try to stay consistent,” says Roberta. “Our hot dogs have always been foot-long, and we’ve always had a hot dog with a casing. They’re not boiled or skinless. It’s a better quality hot dog. It’s pork/beef. Consistently and quality are really high on our list of priorities.”

“And the thing that really separates it is the chili,’ adds Gary. “It’s a homemade sauce that her mother developed back in the day and we keep it going. It’s the same.”

Menu items other than hot dogs are also prepared with care and a sense of tradition.

“We try to keep things as true to the original as we can,” says Roberta. “Our sausages are home made. We get the pork butts ground for us, and I do the patties myself. I season them and make them. And our fries are fresh cut. There are no preservatives at all.”

Torony’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Okun says it’s the customers that he enjoys the most about the business, adding that he likes to joke that some come into the restaurant just to chat with him. Roberta also enjoys seeing familiar faces, and new ones, come though the door.

“Our customers are like  family,” she says. “You get to know them. And you get to know their extend families. They become a part of you. And so when you get to see them, and they become regulars, it’s like having a visit from a friend.”

(For more information on Torony’s Giant Hot Dogs, call (570) 822-1067. They can also be found on Facebook.)