“This area gave me everything I needed at every stage of my life.”
Back in the wild, early 90s, young Brandi Bartush settled in Suscon. She was ten years old. She made her way to NEPA from the Florida Panhandle. It couldn’t have been easy – you know – long tropical summers and all. For Brandi, however, Northeastern Pennsylvania felt immediately like home.
In short time, this sun-spoiled kid from the south took quite naturally to NEPA. Before long, she was hunting and fishing and finding all those not-so-secret, local teenage hangouts. She managed a fine balance between a little bit of trouble and a lot of fun. Through it all – her high school sweetheart by her side.
Adulthood, as it so unexpectedly does, soon crept in and the Pittston Area grad found herself in college. Then, at a day job. Then, attending fewer local rock shows. Life was, as they say, settling down. Somewhere in the middle of it all, she found herself, her calling, her husband, a pair of lazy dogs and a beautiful boy named Austin. She’s happy. She credits a lot of that to life here in NEPA. Through it all – that same high school sweetheart by her side.
In January, Brandi celebrates a solid decade as the Administrator and Events Coordinator at The Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce. That’s where we met, and it’s the very place where we asked those burning questions like Why NEPA?
How long have you lived in NEPA?
Let’s say… (pause for mental calculation) 20 years… no, 30 years. Yeah, it’s been 30 years.
What do you love about your town?
Well, I just can’t talk about Dupont, even though I love it. I have to say the Greater Pittston Area, because it’s not just Dupont, Pittston, West Pittston, Avoca… The Greater Pittston Area is one big community. And, even though we have the Wyoming Area / Pittston Area rivalry, it’s funny, even when you get older, just how close everyone ends up becoming. I just love the family feel and the sense of community that we have in this area.
What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?
Oh, I love this one (laughs). And let me tell you why. In my role here at the Greater Pittston Chamber, it’s our job to help, support, promote, market all businesses in the area. So, it would be terrible for me to choose just one. God forbid, all of our members would have my head (laughs). So, all that aside, I happen to know very well how important small businesses are to this area because my family owns a small business. I’m very proud to say that my parents have a successful small business in Avoca called Valley Meat & Deli, and that is my favorite restaurant. Honestly, I wake up sometimes, even still, just dying for an Italian Hoagie (laughs). Yeah, I’m really just so proud of their success. It’s a great place to eat. And that pride I feel extends to all of the great restaurants in the Greater Pittston Area. They’re all so wonderful. I personally don’t feel there’s one that’s better than the other.
What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
I love being with my family. We’re at a different stage in our lives now. Having a child puts you into that different stage. So, really, we’re just enjoying being with our family. You know, we used to make fun of our parents because they would go on their Sunday drives after church. And we were always like, “Man, that has to be so boring (laughs).” And now we find ourselves, going for breakfast after service and then going on long Sunday drives (laughs). It’s hysterical. We just have to laugh at ourselves. Our tradition is to go up to Falls to get our photos done for the fall and to use for Christmas cards and all that. We get so excited about doing that. And not too long ago, my husband and I just got in the car with Austin and drove out to Lake Wallenpaupack. And we were so excited to do it. You know what I mean. It’s just that kind of thing we used to make fun of that now we truly enjoy doing – looking for great views and stopping at some local restaurant. I think that’s the best part about the Greater Pittston Area and all of NEPA for that matter. It’s the seasons. You can’t beat fall in this area. I don’t care who you are or where you come from, there’s nothing more beautiful. Even winter – when there’s snow on the mountains and the roads – there’s nothing like it.
What’s next for you?
I am really looking forward to raising Austin in this area. Is that boring (laughs)? I’m looking forward to that next phase with him. We’re really excited about him playing sports and enjoying that camaraderie. It’s going to be so much fun to watch him grow up here where we grew up. And we’re looking forward to following along with him and enjoying that next stage. Or I guess I should say – stages. There are so many stages to go though (laughs). We’re really looking forward to still being here for all of them, and watching him grow and succeed.
Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?
I mean, it’s obvious where Northeastern Pennsylvania is already going. So, let’s talk about the Greater Pittston Area. Look at the amazing things that have happened right here. If you haven’t driven through Downtown Pittston in a while, you’ll be surprised to see all the restaurants and shops, and how clean it is. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s appreciate how all of the redevelopment authorities in all the areas around here have stepped up to clean up our region and make it a place that you want to go visit. New businesses are popping up all over. People are coming home now. They’re not moving away. They want to live here and raise their families here. And this is going to continue. You know, locally, when you’re young, you want so badly to move away. Right? You want to see what’s out there, and once you’re out there, you realize that this is home. And there’s nothing like this area – nothing like knowing that family is here. I think we’re going to see more and more people coming back home. We’re going to see generation after generation coming back to develop businesses and start families.
I simply love this area. And I love the homegrown feeling that it gives you. You can’t beat going to something like the Tomato Festival and not being able to get through the door because you’ve run into fifty of your friends – even though you just saw them two weeks ago (laughs). Or, think about going to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and seeing everyone having such a good time. I don’t know. This area kind of pulls you in, doesn’t it? It pulls you in and provides all this opportunity and life to your family. And it’s all homegrown. It’s family-oriented. There’s always something to do – every season, at every turn, in any stage of your life. It covers everything – checks all the boxes. There is truly no better place to live, work and play than in the Greater Pittston Area, or, of course NEPA (laughs).