PLAINS TWP. — Mohegan Sun Pocono will debut its new sports betting facility to the public this week, with a soft opening set for today and Wednesday under Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board supervision.

“We are ecstatic, and I think the patrons are going to love it,” David Parfrey, the casino’s vice president of marketing, said during a tour of the 1,130-square-foot betting lounge on Monday afternoon.

The partnership with Malta-based Kindred Group brings its Unibet Sportsbook brand to Mohegan Sun Pocono and to Pennsylvania, its second U.S. state after debuting in New Jersey earlier this year. It will create between 12 and 14 new jobs at the casino, officials said.

Mohegan Sun Pocono guests will be able to place bets during the test run, from 4 p.m. to midnight today and again from 2 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday.

“These test nights under Gaming Control Board supervision will allow us to test the software, employee training, our procedures,” Parfrey said.

If all goes as planned, the Gaming Control Board will then give its blessing, and the sportsbook will open permanently on Thursday, with daily hours from 11 a.m. to midnight.

The lounge, located to the right of the casino’s main entrance near the valet, features seating for 40 or more guests, and includes six sports betting terminals, one racebook betting terminal, two teller booths, a walk-up food and beverage bar with service from Molly O’Sheas, Parfrey said.

But the room’s centerpiece is its 28-foot wide video wall, complete with a ticker at the top showing current scores and upcoming games.

“This is a really slick piece of technology, a really nice viewing experience,” Parfrey said, explaining that the wall can be transformed from two massive TVs into as many as 16 separate screens.

Two rows of soft recliners stretch in front of the video wall, complete with cup holders and charging ports.

“Mohegan Sun has always had some really unique game-watching experiences, whether it’s Center Bar, Breakers, Bar Louie,” Parfrey said, “but this is the mother of all experiences.”

The lounge’s six self-service betting kiosks accept cash — not credit cards — and allow guests to search the sports they want to wager on, even by team name, Parfrey added. Winning slips can be printed for redemption.

While bets will be limited to tennis, baseball and soccer during the Tuesday and Wednesday test runs, full operation will see guests able to wager on a full range of U.S. and international sports including NFL football, college football and basketball, Major League Baseball, NHL hockey, NBA basketball, golf, tennis, CFL football, boxing, UFC, rugby, NASCAR, as well as American and overseas soccer.

“Both the Mohegan Sun team and the Kindred Group are really excited to launch this state-of-the-art sportsbook,” Parfrey said.

FORTY FORT — In just two months of business, Suraci’s Italian Cafe already has achieved an important milestone.

If they don’t have the daily specials posted on Facebook by about 10:30 a.m. each day, owner Dan Matechak and his staff will start to get calls from customers.

“It’s great to see that kind of customer loyalty,” Matechak said during an interview Saturday afternoon at the Wyoming Avenue eatery, which is located across the street from the Forty Fort Municipal Building.

“Social media is important,” Matechak added when discussing how he spreads word of mouth about the cafe, which opened Dec. 4.

After graduating culinary school in Pittsburgh, Matechak did an apprenticeship at famed French restaurant Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, then worked at sister eatery Brasserie Perrier before returning to Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2009. He then spent a decade as a chef at Isabella Restaurant on Route 315 in Plains Township before launching his own restaurant last year.

Matechak knew he wanted to open a casual Italian eatery with affordable prices, but also knew he needed to differ from the norm around here.

“I just feel there’s a lot of pizza and wing places. I think with our background we wanted to do something different — not necessarily white tablecloth,” Matechak said, referencing his friend, sous chef and longtime coworker Matt Drevenak.

The plan was for an Italian deli that would offer specialty meats, cheeses and hoagies, as well as pastas, desserts and more — and they try to do everything from scratch.

The Daniele hoagie — named for the owner — has been a big seller, Matechak said, with the combination of capicola, soppressata, prosciutto and other Italian delicacies drumming up much social media buzz.

But Matechak says the deli’s signature offering is its pasta, pointing proudly to golden strands of macaroni in the deli case and an extruder on the counter nearby.

“People that know pasta know what kind of time goes into this,” Matechak said, adding that Suraci’s also makes its own meatballs.

All of this is a labor of love for Matechak, 40, a Lackawanna County native who said he returned to the area so that he and his young son could be closer to family.

“Even though you’re only two hours away, you miss a lot of stuff,” he said of living in Philadelphia.

“I love the area, the schools are great,” he added, then chuckled: “If I ever leave again, it’s going to be for a beach.”

Like many first-time entrepreneurs, Matechak is also learning a great deal about the joys and hard work of owning his own business.

“There’s a lot of expenses that you never thought of as a chef. You really have to be involved in everything and aware of the whole spectrum,” Matechak said.

And running a restaurant requires long hours, but Matechak and Drevenak also acknowledged an upside from their days in fine dining: With emphasis on take-out and a largely dayside crowd, “we’re out of here by 7 p.m.,” Matechak said.

“This place is amazing. I’m back there all day making soups from scratch, sauces,” Drevenak said. “And a lot of our older customers really love the soups.”

While they don’t do traditional pizza, Suraci’s seems to have a hit on its hand with personal flatbread pizzas called piadinas, garnished with fresh toppings such as mozzarella chunks, parmesan cheese and basil.

During Saturday’s mid-afternoon interview the restaurant had a steady customer flow, including a mix of return diners and new customers asking about specials.

Matechak said he’s already had some folks ask about whether expansion is in the works; he said his primary focus right now is making the Wyoming Avenue cafe a success.

In addition to quality food, friendly customer service and a strong social media presence, Suraci’s also holds cooking classes for kids every other Sunday.

NEW YORK — Remember the ethereal pale blue Prada dress Lupita Nyong’o wore the night she won an Oscar in 2014? How about Glenn Close’s moment in gold at last year’s Oscars in shimmering Carolina Herrera with the long, liquid cape?

How a red carpet moment comes together, and what happens to the clothes after, can be a peculiar affair that heavily depends on who you are and what your relationship happens to be with the designer in question. A designer’s decision to gift or not to gift often comes after the big night is over and it’s time for stylists to pack ‘em up and ship ’em back.

“They’re delighted if the designer says, ‘Oh, please keep it. I made that just for her. She should have it,’” said stylist Emily Sanchez, who has dressed Laura Linney and Sutton Foster, among others. “If a designer feels they’re going to want something back immediately, they’re pretty transparent about it.”

Many gowns live out their days in a designer’s archives, to be lent out to museums or for other special events, such as the Christian Siriano tuxedo gown Billy Porter wore at last year’s Oscars and recently put on again for “Sesame Street.” Far rarer is a celebrity buying them instead.

“For Oprah, we have dresses custom made and pay for them, so she keeps hers,” said Adam Glassman, creative director of O, The Oprah magazine.

“That’s sort of like the big honor. Typically you get to work with the designer directly. It’s such a huge press opportunity so designers are pretty excited to do that,” she said. “If you won, you probably want the dress, but I think everyone who goes to one of these events is fully prepared to give the dress back at the end of the day.”

Coming at the end of the awards season, the Oscars are a mad scramble for fresh looks after an exhausting cycle of red carpets, parties and other appearances. There are fewer nominees to dress, along with presenters.

Stylist Micaela Erlanger, who has worked with Nyong’o, Meryl Streep and others, said the Oscars are a mix of custom, couture or never-worn runway looks, the latter sometimes with modifications to the silhouette or color. Generally, Erlanger strives for custom.

“It’s the end of the season so you kind of have to resort to custom. So much has already been through the circuit. By the Oscars, I’ve probably seen every dress out there,” she said.

“Some brands want to keep them for their own archives. The brand decides that and the client is happy either way,” she said. “I’d say it’s 50-50. If someone wins in a dress, generally speaking the brands are more inclined to give that as a gift because it’s very sentimental.”

For the Oscars this year, she’s dressing Sigourney Weaver for the show and Diane Kruger for the Vanity Fair after-party.

Stylist Chloe Hartstein will be dressing presenter Chris Rock for the Oscars. She worked with two nominees, Close and Melissa McCarthy, last year.

“It’s a Cinderella moment where you wear it and then the next morning I’m there bright and early to grab it and pack it up and send it to Paris or wherever it needs to be. But there are moments where you’re lucky enough to keep them,” she said.

With many thousands of dollars of work and materials at stake, along with long hours of labor, some designers are more generous than others.

Jennifer Lopez kept her original Versace jungle dress of green silk chiffon that was the talk of the 2000 Grammys. Prior to Lopez making the dress with the plunging neckline among the most famous of all time, it was a runway piece that had been featured in a Versace ad campaign and was worn by Geri Halliwell and Donatella, the latter to the 1999 Met Gala.

Versace made duplicates for museum display, including the Grammy Museum, and Lopez wore a reimagined version for the Versace show at last September’s Milan Fashion Week.

Close enjoyed a slew of custom pieces last year with her nominations for “The Wife.” She was gifted a black velvet cape look by Armani Prive from the Golden Globes after she won for best actress in a drama. She was also gifted the white crystal Ralph Lauren suit she wore when she won a Screen Actors Guild award for the same film.

This year at the Golden Globes, Close was a presenter and wore a royal blue custom gown by Armani Prive. It, too, was gifted. The Oscar de la Renta caftan she wore to the Screen Actors Guild awards wasn’t custom and went back after she presented there.

“She has a beautiful relationship with Mr. Armani. She’s been wearing the brand forever,” Hartstein said. “With Glenn last season, it’s a discussion we had throughout the process.”

Close has a keen interest in fashion, amassing personal looks but also costumes from her films and other projects throughout her nearly 40-year career. She donated her costume collection to Indiana University in 2017.

Actress Kaitlyn Dever, who wore a soft pink strapless Miu Miu gown to the British Academy Film Awards, said her red carpet strategy is with sustainability in mind.

“I borrow them,” Dever said on Sunday’s BAFTA red carpet. “I’m trying to be more green in every aspect of my life. … I’m really trying in all areas. I think if you just try a little bit at least, that does something.”

Saoirse Ronan, who’s nominated for best actress at the upcoming Oscars, said her black Gucci gown at the BAFTAs included repurposed fabric. Does she get to keep it?

Jaclyn Alexandra Cohen, the fashion and accessories editor for Harper’s Bazaar, said designers more often than not hold on to gowns.

“Whether they’re pulled from the runway or created custom for a celebrity, most gowns we see at award shows are returned to the house and kept in the designer’s archive,” she said. “Many of these one-of-a-kind dresses will go down in fashion history as iconic looks.”

My teenage daughter and I had used a similar two-for-one deal last year to take an overnight train trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. This year, she wanted to use her spring break to check out colleges in Chicago as well as the Pacific Northwest. When Amtrak announced the return of its companion fare sale, I thought a couple of nights on a sleeper train might be a good way to start our college tour. She agreed.

At the same time, I noticed that we had travel rewards piling up all over the place: points, miles, free anniversary nights at hotels, even a Southwest companion pass that had yet to be used. At NerdWallet, we’re always telling people to spend rather than hoard their rewards, which get less valuable over time thanks to program devaluations.

So I decided to see how much I could save on one 10-day trip. The answer: more than $3,000. I’m bragging, but I also hope my experience might help you get more value from your own rewards programs.

First, the details. Our itinerary includes two nights in an Amtrak sleeper car, two airline tickets from Chicago to Seattle and six nights in historic hotels in three cities (plus one night in a convention hotel). The fare for our flight home was less than $90; and I got to use that companion pass, which allows me to add another person to any flight I book with Southwest for only the cost of fees and taxes (in this case, just $5.60).

My total cash outlay for all the booked travel: $846, including $740 for the Amtrak double-bunk roomette. The price tag for the trip without all the discounts: $4,234. This total doesn’t include most meals, in-city transportation or incidentals (such as college sweatshirts).

Also not included are the annual fees I pay for the credit cards that provided most of these rewards. Those fees totaled $733. That seems like a lot, but that cost is more than offset by other card perks, including travel credits, airline lounge access and free breakfasts at hotels.

Most important, we don’t carry credit card balances, so we don’t pay interest. The only way to win the travel rewards game is to pay balances in full every month, since otherwise interest costs will overwhelm any travel savings. If you do carry balances, look instead for a low-rate credit card that will help you pay off your debt faster.

If you’re new to travel rewards cards, or just want to get more out of the ones you have, here are my tips:

It’s typically easy to use your points because there are often tons of available rooms and no blackout dates. In most cases, the annual fee is more than offset by the free night you get on each cardmember anniversary. The downside: You can only redeem your points at that brand.

General travel rewards cards offer the flexibility to book with a number of different hotels or airlines. You can transfer points from the general rewards card to other frequent traveler programs or use your points to book travel directly through their portals.

In addition to two anniversary nights that were about to expire, I had about 2,500 points moldering away in a forgotten Amtrak rewards account, which paid for coach seats from Seattle to Portland.

Typically I’ll use a travel comparison site such as Kayak to get an idea of going rates, then check hotel and airline sites to see if I can get favorable exchange rates for my points. Once I’ve found a good deal, I’ll transfer points from a general rewards program to book the travel. But sometimes it’s nice to take the easier, faster way. I booked most of our hotel rooms and the flight to Seattle directly through a general rewards card’s travel portal. My points were worth 1.5 cents each, which is a decent return, and I didn’t have to spend hours comparing all my options.

It’s fun to score a big win, but the most important thing is that the rewards get used. Points programs are constantly being devalued, meaning it takes more points to get the same reward. Points in some programs can even expire (shudder). So don’t lose your points — use them.

KINGSTON — The Atrium, a popular breakfast and lunch spot on Market Street in Kingston since 1991, is moving to the new Friedman Jewish Community Center building on Third Avenue.

Owner Matthew Borwick said the new location will open on Monday, Feb. 10, with hours 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Atrium will be open Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.

Borwick, 33 of Kingston, said the old location on Market Street will reopen soon as The Atrium Burger, featuring what Borwick called “high-end burgers, fries and more.”

“We’re excited about the move,” Borwick said Tuesday as he, his dad, Bob, and his manager Jordan Belschner were putting finishing touches on the new location. “We will offer breakfast and lunch and most of the items from the old restaurant will be offered here, plus some new features.”

Borwick has owned The Atrium since 2013 and he has owned Ollie’s in the Narrows Shopping Center on Route 11 since 2017.

The new Atrium is big — seating for 104 and additional private room space for another 25 to 30. The restaurant is decorated in earth tones and features a large black and white mural of an Italian atrium. The kitchen is state-of-the-art with industrial appliances and freezers and refrigeration.

Borwick is quick to tell you that The Atrium Restaurant delivers the highest quality of food, using only the freshest ingredients, while providing fast and friendly service. He said he and his staff appreciate the constraints of a lunch break and The Atrium also offers call-ahead service.

Borwick said The Atrium also offers corporate and in-restaurant catering for receptions, showers and business meetings, and will offer delivery service.

And, as with the Market Street location, the new Atrium will have outdoor seating when the temperatures rise. The phone number for The Atrium is 570-287-5766.

Borwick wanted to emphasize The Atrium’s breakfast offerings, noting that there will be varieties of eggs Benedict and avocado toast to go with traditional offerings of eggs, omelets, brioche French toast, bacon and sausage plates. He said bagels, muffins and fruit will also be featured.

“And everything is made here fresh,” Borwick said. “We will have daily specials that we will post on our Facebook site.”

“When we first saw the space, it was a no-brainer for us,” Borwick said. “This is a real opportunity to increase our business.”

“We hope to expand our base,’ he said. “We want to keep customers coming back and to recommend us to their friends. One good experience can lead to 10 new customers.”

The Cross Valley Federal Credit Union last week held a groundbreaking for their new location on South Sherman Street at Pine Street in Wilkes-Barre. Seen from left are: Leonard Shimko, Cross Valley FCU Board of Directors; George Brown, Wilkes-Barre Mayor; Traci Donahue, Cross Valley FCU CEO/President; Robert Chepalonis, Cross Valley FCU Board of Directors; and Wico van Genderen, Wilkes-Barre Chamber President/CEO. The branch is expected to open this summer, company officials said.

The Luzerne Foundation recently presented Court Appointed Special Advocates of Luzerne County with a check from its Millennium Circle Fund.

The Millennium Circle Fund of The Luzerne Foundation was created by a special group of donors whose onetime gifts of $2,000 play a pivotal role in helping The Luzerne Foundation identify unmet community needs.

The Millennium Circle Fund awarded a $25,000 grant to CASA after Millennium Circle members listened to presentations from six local nonprofits at an annual luncheon on Oct. 29, 2019.

Including the 2019 grant award, The Millennium Circle Fund has provided $389,000 in grant funding since its inception in 2001.

CASA seeks to provide a qualified and compassionate volunteer advocate to every abused and neglected child in Luzerne County to ensure their right to a safe, nurturing and permanent home is met. Currently, more than 500 Luzerne County children are in foster care.

Those interested in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate are encouraged to attend an information session by signing up at Please call the CASA office at (570) 855-2247 or visit to learn more. CASA of Luzerne County is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Morell holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Bloomsburg University and began her career as a behavioral health worker for elementary age children through the Children’s Service Center.

She joined the CASA staff in October 2019 and filled a vital and important role in the organization. As part of her day-to-day duties, Morell supervises 22 advocates as they seek to make a positive change in the lives of abused and neglected foster children here in Luzerne County.

In addition to her role as an advocate coordinator, Morell recently completed CASA’s fall 2019 advocate training class, and was sworn in alongside 16 other volunteers in December.

Currently, CASA has a total of 70 volunteer advocates serving 59 children. The program is accepting applicants for its spring training class which begins on March 25.

In a previous column, I detailed retirees’ biggest lifestyle regrets, such as not traveling more before their health gave out and not communicating clearly with a partner about what they hoped retirement would be like.

Now we’ll cover the money moves retirees wish they hadn’t made. The big ones, of course, are starting to save too late and not saving enough, but there are other common regrets, according to certified financial planners from the Financial Planning Association and the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners.

About 1 out of 3 Social Security recipients apply for benefits at the earliest age, which is 62. It’s often a mistake. Benefits grow by a guaranteed 5% to 8% each year that the applicant delays. Starting early also can stunt the survivor benefit that one spouse will have to live on when the other dies.

Some people talk themselves into starting early with the promise that they’ll save or invest their benefits, says CFP Delia Fernandez of Los Alamitos, California.

“But of course they can’t earn on it what Social Security will pay them if they only wait,” Fernandez says. “They look back and say, ‘I should have waited, I would have had so much more Social Security coming in right now.’”

Making deductible contributions to 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement plans can reduce your tax bill while you’re working, which is great. But eventually that money has to come out of the accounts, thanks to required minimum distribution rules, and it’s taxed as income.

Diligent savers can find themselves pushed into higher tax brackets by these mandatory withdrawals, planners say. The disbursements also can cause more of their Social Security benefits to be taxed and raise their Medicare premiums.

Financial planners recommend saving at least some money in Roth accounts, which don’t offer upfront deductions but provide tax-free withdrawals, to better manage tax bills in retirement.

Speaking of Medicare, people are often surprised how much health care coverage costs in retirement, planners say. Those with generous employer-provided coverage can find themselves paying significantly more out of pocket than when they were working.

Medicare has deductibles, co-pays and expenses that aren’t typically covered, such as eye care, dental care and hearing aids. But Medicare itself also has premiums, and those can rise with income, thanks to the income-related monthly adjustment amount — known as IRMAA.

The standard premium for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor’s visits, is $144.60 per month for 2020. If your modified adjusted gross income is above $87,000 for singles or $174,000 for married couples, though, IRMAA can add anywhere between $57.80 to $347 per person per month.

IRMAA affected 3.5 million Part B beneficiaries and 2.5 million Part D beneficiaries in 2017, according to the Medicare trustees.

As scary as the stock market can be, some exposure to equities is essential for most retirees, financial planners say. Stocks are the only investment class that consistently outpaces inflation.

In some cases, a retiree may be able to take more risk with their investments than when they were younger, says CFP Marc B. Schindler of Bellaire, Texas. For example, if all a retiree’s fixed expenses are covered by guaranteed income — from Social Security and pensions, for example — she may be in a good position to take more risk with her portfolio and potentially reap the rewards of higher returns.

CFP Matt Wilson of Overland Park, Kansas, recently counseled a couple who had a financial advisor, but no financial plan. What the couple did have was a lot of anxiety about their investments and whether their money would last.

“They did not have a spending plan, tax plan or investment strategy,” Wilson says. “They had been pulling money from the investments in a haphazard way because they did not know what they did not know.”

Retirement is full of major, often irreversible financial decisions and hidden risks. Working with a fee-only, fiduciary financial planner — one who’s committed to putting the client’s interest first — can help people develop sustainable withdrawal rates and a sensible investment strategy.

“The level of stress and anxiety was reduced significantly after our meetings because they now had a plan,” Wilson says.

Reese worked for Planters Peanuts in Wilkes-Barre and its successors for decades. He and daughter Cheryl both collect Planters memorabilia, especially anything having to do with the famed peanut mascot with his signature top hat, monocle and cane.

So they were shocked and saddened last week to learn that Planters had decided to kill off the 104-year-old character who has been part of their lives for decades.

“I’m really disappointed with what happened to Mr. Peanut, given the fact that I worked for him for 30 years,” said Reese, who ended his career as a senior manager for facilities and administration.

“I couldn’t believe they did that, but hopefully it’s just an advertising gimmick,” Cheryl Reese added, noting that she has received messages of condolences from friends and family because of how avidly she has collected Mr. Peanut items over the years.

Planters has said a funeral for Mr. Peanut will be broadcast during the Super Bowl next Sunday, after the character crashed his NUTmobile off a cliff when he swerved to avoid an armadillo, a violent ending which the brand publicized in a video released last week.

“Of course, knowing marketing people the way I do, they come off with weird ideas,” the Nanticoke resident said.

“My take on it is this: When you drop a peanut off the second floor roof, it doesn’t break,” he said. It floats down, because the density is such that it’s not that heavy, and the outer shell protects it anyway.”

Cheryl’s Planters collection fills an entire room — and then some — including everything and anything related to the mascot, from vintage packaging and advertisements to cups, salt and pepper shakers, matches, lapel pins, ties, posters, model railroad cars and more.

It also includes one of the distinctive Mr. Peanut costumes that once were a familiar sight here in Wilkes-Barre and outside Planters’ retail stores around the country.

For David Reese, Mr. Peanut’s “demise” also offered a chance to talk about his time with the company, and its presence here in the Wyoming Valley.

Reese, a Plymouth native, started working at Planters’ former South Main Street offices in Wilkes-Barre in 1959, when he was 24.

“I had come out of the Navy and had another job that didn’t pan out and I started working at Planters,” Reese said. “And I met a bunch of guys who were vets from World War II. I was a rookie kid. I didn’t say much at first but I listened.”

Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. was founded in Wilkes-Barre in 1906 by an Italian immigrant named Amadeo Obici and his future brother-in-law, Mario Peruzzi.

There was some manufacturing in Wilkes-Barre in the early years, but Reese noted that the South Main Street site was not a manufacturing facility, as some previous media reports had stated. Planters had other sites in the city that had been used for that purpose, he said. The only thing Reese ever knew to be manufactured there was carmel-covered popcorn for the retail stores, which was made in a stainless-steel room in the basement.

While Obici soon opened a processing plant in Suffolk, Virginia in the early 1900s, the corporate headquarters remained here for decades.

Reese also saw big changes before too many years had passed in his career: The company was acquired by Standard Brands in the early 1960s.

“There were 160 people at the South Main Street address. There were marketing people there, advertising. The company sent them down to Madison Avenue in New York, along with data processing. The 160 people that I started with was now down to about 40 to 45 guys,” Reese said.

“I had only been with the company for a couple years, and figured I would stick around and maybe get a couple weeks severance pay if it came to that,” Reese said.

A stabbing incident at one of the New York facilities, combined with increasing mechanization of data processing, caused the company to look at how many properties it needed and where they should be, he recalled.

Reese was involved in transitioning work done around the country to the South Main Street offices, where staff he supervised were turning out more work than any other office in the U.S., and typically for less.

“You could hire clerical people in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a heck a lot cheaper than you could in New York City,” Reese said.

“I worked in virtually every department in the building except cost accounting and payroll. When I was in the Navy I was the paymaster on a destroyer. I knew payroll but they never put me there,” he joked.

“I ended up being the facilities manager, running the mailroom, running what we called grocery accounting — processing of orders — with an IBM computer that filled a room the size of this, but you have more power on your desktop than that whole computer did.”

So between 1964 and 1970, more jobs were created at the facility, and part of its warehouse was remodeled for office space, he added.

“We were growing so fast,” Reese said. “By 1980 we were bulging at the seems. We just didn’t have enough room there.”

His superiors — by then the company was part of Nabisco — tasked him with finding room to grow within the region.

“They pulled me off of all my jobs in 1984 and said, quietly, go find us a spot,” Reese recalled.

There was space in a former junkyard adjacent to the South Main property, but the soil was too contaminated, he said. And Scranton was lobbying hard, but a proposed site on the north side of the city was more than 25 miles away and would have required paying relocation expenses to employees.

The solution was much closer to home, in Hanover Township, where the new Nabisco building — now part of Mondelez International — was built.

“That was my project. We started putting footers in March 11, 1985 and had the dedication Dec. 11,” Reese said. “We didn’t miss a deadline and we moved all of these departments without losing a phone call or a data transmission or anything.

Operations at South Main Street were phased out around 1990, said Reese, adding that he is sad to see the state of the building today. The warehouse is gone, with only the two-story administrative building remaining, albeit in a forlorn state. Preservation groups have called for its restoration and re-use.

“I went through a number of mergers from Planters to Standard Brands to Nabisco to KKR, which was Kohlberg Kravis Roberts,” he said.

The investment firm “didn’t want the high-priced managers and directors around,” as Reese recalled it. So in 1989 he retired.

“They offered me a retirement package at 53 that I couldn’t turn down, so I became a professional golf bum,” he said with a chuckle.

One of those fond memories has to do with Mr. Peanut himself. Among Reese’s many jobs was running the premium department, which was in charge of branded items.

“You sent in product labels — send two in and 50 cents and you get a Mr. Peanut cup or bank,” he said. “I started to buy them for my children and bring them home.”

The collections put together by himself and Cheryl go way beyond, however, including one of the famous iron statues once displayed on the South Main Street building.

David Reese sat around the table at his Nanticoke home displaying a Planters nut tin from the 1910s, from which small retailers would dole out peanuts with a little scoop, selling them in glassine bags for a nickel a piece.

Reese also pointed out that the popular Planter retail stores with which the costumed mascots were associated were separate from the manufacturing operations.

“There were two companies: The Planters Nut and Chocolate Co., and National Peanut Co. They were responsible for the running of the retail stores as far west as San Francisco,” Reese said. “When Standard Brands bought the company they did not want to be in the retail sales business. They sold them or auctioned them off.”

That initially worked well, because “most of the buyers were the managers and people who ran the stores in the first place,” Reese added. “The controller of the company bought six of them up in New England, and he became a multi-millionaire.”

The original store was on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, around the corner from what is now the F.M. Kirby Center, he added, while was another in the West Side Mall in Edwardsville.

It was outside those stores that many Americans saw Mr. Peanut for the first times, including here on Public Square.

Reese was quick to point out that the costumed Mr. Peanut characters did not walk the streets handing out peanuts, as a previous news story maintained.

If you’ve saved a lot for retirement, or your parents have, you could be affected by recent changes in the rules about retirement distributions.

The recently enacted Secure Act eliminated the “stretch IRA,” a strategy used by affluent investors to pass tax-advantaged money to their heirs. The stretch IRA allowed nonspouse beneficiaries — typically children and grandchildren — to take money out of an inherited IRA gradually over their lifetimes. The new law requires most IRAs inherited by people other than spouses to be drained within 10 years, which can lead to much higher tax bills for heirs. (Spouses still have the option of treating an inherited IRA as their own and taking money out over their lifetimes.)

At the same time, the Secure Act delayed when required minimum distributions have to begin for most retirement account owners, increasing the age for mandatory distributions from 70 1/2 to 72.

Financial planners say the changes make Roth conversions more attractive for big savers — typically those with $1 million or more in their retirement accounts — who want to reduce future tax bills for themselves or their heirs.

“The percentage of our clients that do Roth conversions is going to increase dramatically this year,” predicts certified financial planner Ryan P. Costello of Leawood, Kansas.

A Roth conversion involves transferring money from a traditional IRA or other retirement plan to a Roth IRA. Conversions usually trigger an income tax bill that can be substantial.

Once the money is inside the Roth, though, future withdrawals are tax-free. In addition, there are no required minimum distributions that force owners to take money out at a certain age.

“What this means to the owner is potentially more efficient tax planning in retirement, more time for the account to keep growing and a larger nest egg to pass on,” says certified financial planner David W. Mullins of Richlands, Virginia.

Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay a big tax bill now if the money can be accessed at a lower rate later. That’s the situation for most people since their tax brackets will drop once they retire and few have saved enough to leave much to their heirs. Another barrier to conversion is that people need to be able to pay the tax bill out of their current income or from nonretirement accounts. (Tapping the IRA money to pay the tax bill changes the math so much that conversions are rarely advisable.)

Conversions can make sense if the IRA owner expects to be in the same or a higher tax bracket in retirement. Good candidates for Roth conversions tend to be diligent young savers who expect their incomes to climb over the years and older people whose tax bills could jump when they start taking required minimum distributions.

Conversions also can be smart if the money is intended for heirs whose tax bracket is likely to be at least as high as the account owner’s. A retiree might not want to convert if the money will likely go to young grandchildren or other heirs in lower tax brackets, for example. But if money will be left to an heir in her peak earning years, conversion may be wise, especially now that inherited retirement accounts have to be drained within 10 years.

An ideal time for a Roth conversion can be after retirement but before required minimum distributions begin, financial planners say. Tax brackets often dip during this period, and the conversion can be spread over several years to better manage the tax bill. The higher age for required minimum distributions gives people more time to make these conversions.

Getting advice from a skilled tax professional is essential, however. A too-large conversion can push people into higher tax brackets, cause more of their Social Security benefits to be taxed and increase their Medicare premiums. Certified financial planner Linda P. Erickson of Greensboro, North Carolina, recommends hiring a certified public accountant who can model how various conversion amounts are likely to affect current and future tax bills.

Tax rates can change, of course, as can tax laws. But the advantages of a conversion can be substantial enough to make it a gamble worth taking, says Henry Luong Hoang, a certified financial planner, of Newport Beach, California.

“As a hedge, if you have the ability to pay reasonable tax rates to convert your IRA today, there is a very low chance you will regret future tax-free distributions,” Hoang says.

SAN FRANCISCO — For three years running, California’s wildfires have sent plumes of smoke across Silicon Valley. So far, though, that hasn’t spurred much tech innovation aimed at addressing extreme-weather disasters associated with climate change.

It’s true that tech companies from enterprise software-maker Salesforce to financial-technology firm Stripe have pushed to dramatically reduce their climate impact. Individual investors and small investment firms have stepped in to fund emerging efforts around cleantech — a term used broadly to describe technology that looks to manage human impact on the environment. And the catastrophic Australian wildfires have spurred additional interest.

But among startups who provide much of tech innovation, things are still moving slowly. That’s partly a lingering hangover from a cleantech investment bust almost a decade ago. But the technology itself can also take years to prove and even longer to convince traditional utilities and government agencies to adopt.

“That’s a big bottleneck,” said Bilal Zuberi, a venture capitalist at Lux Capital who focuses on emerging tech investments.

Zuberi said a recent uptick in funding and activity is encouraging, but he also cautioned that new companies have to find ways to effectively work with slow-moving potential customers.

Clean tech companies focused specifically on addressing climate change issues are facing similar trends.

“It is a massive gap,” Matt Rogers, co-founder of venture capital firm Incite Ventures, said of the tech industry’s involvement in climate tech funding. “Folks don’t work in this space.”

Before getting into venture capital, Rogers co-founded the smart-thermostat company Nest, which was later acquired by Google. He left and started Incite, which focuses on investing mostly in climate tech, as well as health and medical tech startups.

One of the firm’s portfolio companies, Pittsburgh-based Pearl Street Technologies, is working on software to help utilities better manage an increasingly “smart” electric grid — the web of power generators, substations and transmission lines that brings power to homes and business.

Founders David Bromberg and Larry Pileggi are developing software intended to help utilities cope with the changes presented by solar installations, more widely distributed wind farms, and the increased complexity of managing grids that increasingly aren’t centrally planned around large power stations .

“The tools that are used for the grid were designed for how the grid operated in the 80s or 90s,” Pileggi said. “The characteristics of the grid have changed, but the software tools haven’t really evolved with them.”

The idea is that greater visibility into the way their grid functions can help utilities fix certain problems faster and better prevent others. But the power industry is fairly cautious about adopting new technologies, Bromberg said.

PG&E, California’s largest utility, has been the embattled center of California’s wildfires, given its massive planned power outages and findings that its old transmission lines have sparked some huge fires. It also has a significant problem with aged and sometimes failing infrastructure.

The utility said in a 2019 smart grid report that it is using several programs to expand wildfire safety, including testing various technologies that could reduce the number of people affected by power outages.

Chooch AI, an artificial intelligence company based in San Francisco, is using a system that analyzes satellite images every 10 minutes to identify where new wildfires may have broken out.

At the moment, firefighters largely rely on traditional methods to spot fires — typically people who call in after seeing smoke. That can lead to false alarms and fires that go unnoticed for too long, said Chooch CEO Emrah Gultekin.

Chooch’s technology is trained to spot likely signs of wildfires, and then send photo emails to people at firefighting agencies, who can then verify if a fire has broken out.

Chooch says it’s talking with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention , or Cal Fire, as it adapts its system to look for wildfires, although it’s early in the process. The company hopes to have the system live by next year’s wildfire season.

Another startup hoping to prevent fires from spreading is Ladera Tech, a company founded by a former forestry manager and a Stanford University professor. The pair developed a material that allows environmentally-friendly fire retardant to be sprayed on brush and grasses near roadways, where fires are likely to break out — often as a result of small sparks from cars.

The U.S. Forest Service confirmed last year that the 2018 Ferguson fire, which burned through parts of the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park, was caused when a car’s catalytic converter hit dry vegetation on the side of the road.

The material, which Colorado and Palo Alto-based Ladera has been testing with California’s department of transportation, allows the fire retardant to stick to the plants to prevent fires from spreading .

“Fighting roadside fires costs time and money,” said co-founder Jesse Acosta, a former fire prevention forester in Hawaii. “So let’s treat the roadside and let’s bank that money for vegetation management in the hillsides.”

Hillsides often need maintenance — and replanting — after fires break out. Seattle startup DroneSeed is tackling this with five huge drones designed to rapidly replant trees in fire-ravaged areas — a process that could take humans alone months.

The drones, which the company has received FAA approval to operate, fly low over the land to survey with laser and other sensors to identify which areas have the best soil and chance of trees thriving.

Then DroneSeed sends out the drones equipped with seeds in small nutrient-packed vessels that are customized to the planting area. The drones can fly as low as 12 feet over the ground, dropping the packages at pre-determined spots.

The company is doing pilot projects in eastern Washington and Oregon, including with The Nature Conservancy, and hopes to expand to California soon.

Companies have unleashed hundreds of CBD pet health products accompanied by glowing customer testimonials claiming the cannabis derivative produced calmer, quieter and pain-free dogs and cats.

“You’d be astounded by the analysis we’ve seen of products on the shelf with virtually no CBD in them,” said Cornell University veterinary researcher Joseph Wakshlag, who studies therapeutic uses for the compound. “Or products with 2 milligrams per milliliter, when an effective concentration would be between 25 and 75 milligrams per milliliter. There are plenty of folks looking to make a dollar rather than produce anything that’s really beneficial.”

Such products can make it to the shelves because the federal government has yet to establish standards for CBD that will help people know whether it works for their pets and how much to give.

Still, there’s lots of individual success stories that help fuel a $400 million market that grew more than tenfold since last year and is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2023, according to the cannabis research firm Brightfield Group.

Amy Carter of St. Francis, Wisconsin, decided to go against her veterinarian’s advice and try CBD oil recommended by a friend to treat Bentley, her epileptic Yorkshire terrier-Chihuahua mix. The little dog’s cluster seizures had become more frequent and frightening despite expensive medications.

“It’s amazing” Carter said. “Bentley was having multiple seizures a week. To have only six in the past seven months is absolutely incredible.”

Dawn Thiele, an accountant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, said she bought a $53 bottle of CBD oil from a local shop in hopes of calming her 2-year-old Yorkshire terrier during long car trips.

Short for cannabidiol, CBD is a non-intoxicating molecule found in hemp and marijuana. Both are cannabis plants, but only marijuana has enough of the compound THC to get users high. The vast majority of CBD products come from hemp, which has less than 0.3% THC.

CBD has garnered a devoted following among people who swear by it for everything from stress reduction to better sleep. Passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which eased federal legal restrictions on hemp cultivation and transport, unleashed a stampede of companies rushing products to the market in an absence of regulations ensuring safety, quality and effectiveness.

“The growth is more rapid than I’ve seen for any product in 20 years in this business,” said Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council, an industry group whose member companies agree to testing and data-gathering requirements. “There’s a gold rush going on now. Probably 95 percent of the industry participants are responsible, but what’s dangerous is the fly-by-night operative that wants to cash in.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is developing regulations for marketing CBD products, for pets or people. This year, it has sent warning letters to 22 companies citing violations such as making claims about therapeutic uses and treatment of disease in humans or animals or marketing CBD as a dietary supplement or food ingredient.

“It’s really the Wild West out there,” said S. David Moche, founder of Applied Basic Science, a company formed to support Colorado State University’s veterinary CBD research and now selling CBD online. He advises consumers to look for a certificate of analysis from a third-party testing laboratory to ensure they’re getting what they pay for.

“Testing and labeling is going to be a critical part of the future of this industry,” Moche said.

Wakshlag said products must be tested not only for CBD level, but also to ensure they’re free of toxic contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides and have only trace amounts of THC, which in higher levels is toxic to dogs.

That’s starting to change, however. A small clinical trial at Colorado State University published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in June found CBD oil reduced seizure frequency in 89 percent of the epileptic dogs that received it.

A clinical study headed by Wakshlag at Cornell, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science in July 2018, found CBD oil helped increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Stephanie McGrath, a Colorado State University researcher, is now doing a larger clinical trial funded by the American Kennel Club’s Canine Health Foundation.

“The results of our first epilepsy study were promising, but there was certainly not enough data to say CBD is the new miracle anti-convulsive drug in dogs,” McGrath said.

Seizures are a natural focus for research on veterinary CBD products, since Epidiolex, the only FDA-approved drug containing cannabidiol, was approved last year for treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy in children. Veterinarians are allowed to prescribe Epidiolex for pets, but it’s prohibitively expensive — upwards of $30,000 a year for an average-size dog, McGrath said.

The Kennel Club’s chief veterinary officer, Jerry Klein, said CBD is “over-hyped” but promising for treatments like pain relief. He’s hopeful that the growing market will result in more money being invested in research to prove uses.

Meantime, the American Veterinary Medical Association is telling veterinarians they can share what they know about CBD with clients but shouldn’t prescribe or recommend it until the FDA gives its blessing.

“There’s no question there’s veterinary interest in these products as therapies, but we really want to see the manufacturers demonstrate that they’re effective and safe and get FDA approval so we can have confidence in the products,” said Gail Golab, chief veterinary officer for the association.

Good financial advice leaves you better off. Bad advice does the opposite, and may even enrich someone else at your expense.

Here are some areas where you need to be particularly careful to seek out good advice, since bad advice can be so costly.

Most financial advisers aren’t required to put your best interests first. They’re allowed to recommend investments that cost more or perform worse than available alternatives. Why would they do that? Because the inferior investments pay them or their employers more than the better ones.

This kind of conflicted advice takes a heavy toll. White House economic advisers estimated in 2015 that conflicted advice cost Americans $17 billion a year and resulted in losses of one percentage point per year for affected investors.

One percentage point may not seem like a lot, but over time it adds up. Someone who contributes $5,000 a year to a retirement fund could have nearly $1 million at the end of a 40-year working career if the average net return is 7%. If higher costs reduce the return to 6%, the nest egg would total about $775,000.

Look for advisers who are fiduciaries, meaning they are required to put your interests ahead of theirs. You might also consider a robo-advisory service, which uses computer algorithms to design investment portfolios at low cost.

The second-worst piece of college financing advice is “Don’t worry about the cost.” The worst? “College isn’t worth the cost.”

Education still pays off in higher lifetime earnings and lower unemployment. Someone with a high school diploma could expect to earn $1.3 million over a lifetime, according to research by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Someone with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn $2.3 million. Unemployment rates are currently 2% for those with bachelor’s degrees and above, and 3.7% for high school graduates. Those rates peaked in 2009, just after the last recession, at 5% for college graduates and 11% for high school grads.

Rather than skip college, skip the costly debt. Limit your borrowing to federal student loans, which typically max out at $31,000 for undergraduate education.

More than one third of Social Security recipients start benefits at the earliest opportunity, which is age 62. Fewer than 4% wait until age 70, when benefits max out. But starting Social Security at 62 can cost people up to $250,000 in lost benefits, according to a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get good advice before they claim. Even Social Security itself may not be a good source, since its representatives have been known to steer people wrong.

Social Security claiming calculators, such as the free one at AARP’s site, can help you determine the lifetime impact of starting benefits later. If you have substantial retirement savings, you also should consider consulting a fiduciary financial planner about the best ways to coordinate Social Security claiming with retirement plan withdrawals.

You may have heard that you don’t need to worry about your credit scores because they’re not important or because they’ll be good as long as you handle money responsibly. Neither is true, and having bad scores can cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

People with credit scores of around 720, for example, could expect average mortgage interest rates of 3.67% on a 30-year, $300,000 mortgage, according to Informa Research Services Inc. The monthly payment would be about $1,374. People with 620 scores, on the other hand, average 5.03% or $1,616 a month. That’s a difference of $86,891 over the life of the loan.

Similarly, someone with 720 scores could expect to pay $5,000 less on a six-year, $30,000 car loan than someone with 620 scores.

Higher interest rates aren’t the only cost. Bad credit also can cause you to pay more for insurance, make it harder to get an apartment and cause you to miss out on the best cellphone promotions.

The best advice: Learn how credit scores work and monitor at least one of yours so you can address problems before they cost you a fortune.

Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: Twitter: lizweston.

Anticipating and encouraging a crowd of property owners upset about stormwater fees, Luzerne County Council’s Legislative Committee will meet Tuesday at the Best Western Plus Genetti Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — For I.S. Leevy Johnson, the Democrats’ search for a challenger to take on President Donald Trump is personal.

KINGSTON — The Friedman Jewish Community Center welcomed guest speaker Erin McLaughlin to town on Sunday for a presentation entitled “Agree to Disagree: The Value of Viewpoint Diversity.”

With proposals to develop what once was the Central Railroad of New Jersey rail yard in Ashley, the site was the scene of two deadly catastrophes with runaway freight trains in the early 1900s.

WILKES-BARRE — It wasn’t Fat Tuesday in New Orleans, but the Mardi Gras celebration thrown by St. Robert Bellarmine Parish at St. Aloysius Church had parishioners and guests partying like they were in the Big Easy.

Medical marijuana patients may have noticed an increased difficulty in finding a particular product: traditional marijuana buds.

TUNKHANNOCK — Former Tunkhannock Mayor Norman Ball died on Thursday at the Allied Hospice Center in Scranton at the age of 84.

WILKES-BARRE — The Leadership Wilkes-Barre project group, Mission Nutrition, is looking for community support to aid in their quest to equip Volunteers in Medicine with a commercial-grade refrigerator and other materials that will provide healthy, fresh food to their clients.

WILKES-BARRE — State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on his legislation — H.B. 2287.

WILKES-BARRE — My dad always talked about Ben Johnson, a Plymouth High School graduate who was an Olympic-caliber sprinter who went on to become a colonel in the U.S. Army.

Rowan, my 4-year-old granddaughter loves playing doctor (surgeon?) with her stuffed animal friends as patients. For the life of me I can’t understand where she gets that.

Some crimes take only minutes, even seconds, to execute. Now imagine how many seconds Donald Trump has between this moment and Election Day.

Student loan debt has become a hot topic among policy makers, educators and most recently politicians.

I grew up playing and loving the game of basketball. By the time I was 8 years old, I had my whole life all figured out … I was absolutely convinced that I was going to UCLA and be a college star, make the Olympic team, and become the next Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, or Pistol Pete in the NBA.

As I was perusing through Facebook, I smiled at all the beautiful messages and photos posted on Valentine’s Day.

WILKES-BARRE — State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, will host a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing on his legislation — H.B. 2287.

WILKES-BARRE — My dad always talked about Ben Johnson, a Plymouth High School graduate who was an Olympic-caliber sprinter who went on to become a colonel in the U.S. Army.

On behalf of the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, I am writing to express our support to House Bill 1100 – a piece of legislation that has the potential to attract outside commerce to Pennsylvania and create thousands of family-sustaining jobs. Additionally, this legislation can spur much-needed development in underserved regions in our commonwealth.

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I’m a believer in educating yourself about genealogy. The more you learn from the experts, the more progress you will make and the more accurate will be your results.

This is an open letter to all of our incumbent legislators on both sides of the aisle, including independents.

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