"I don’t know that I’d be able to be the person I am, or do all the things I do if I lived anywhere else."
During his college days and, for a short time after, young Dr. Jason Nataupsky flirted with the idea of becoming a Philadelphian. He was young, energetic, optimistic and educated. He met his equally brilliant wife a few years earlier. They got married, finished school, found a place and imagined the stars had aligned specifically for them right there in that moment. And, as Romantic a backdrop as Philly may be, something was missing. They just weren’t connected to it.
He thought often and fondly of his formative years in NEPA. He grew up happy. Did he spend a little too much of his allowance at ICBIY and Tudor Books? Sure (it was the 90s – the Golden Age of frozen yogurt). But, for Jason, one thing that always stood out was a pervasive feeling of connectivity. To the upstart dentist, Northeastern Pennsylvania was home. It was family. And when he thought of family, he looked back at his parents, of course, but also his teachers, his mentors, his friends and his neighbors. And he wanted that. He wanted it for his wife and their two young boys.
So, he came home – to carry the flame, to have an impact, to give back in a place where it would have more meaning.
We caught up with young Dr. Nataupsky in his office at the popular family practice on Pierce Street in Kingston. And between rare, Bowie B-sides and adorable asides from his eavesdropping office mate/Mom, we posed the question: Why NEPA?
How long have you lived in NEPA?
Let’s see… I’m 36 years old, so I’ve lived here 26 years – about three quarters of my life, I guess.
What do you love about your town?
I love that we have a… [Dad, Dr. Gary Nataupsky, quietly interrupts to grab his “lunch” – a single, bright red apple] … a community and I love that the community is supportive. There is a real beating heart here. And some of the people who are at the forefront of all this have so much passion that it invigorates people like myself to get involved. And that’s awesome. It’s just awesome. NEPA is growing. It’s moving forward. And I love being a part of that. It’s what I love most about this amazing place. It’s awesome – can I say that again? (Laughs)
What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?
Oh Jeez. Come on! You know… there are two rules in this office, and you’re asking me to break one of them. That is, we’re not allowed to talk about pizza. So, we’re not going to talk about pizza. We’re going to talk about “restaurants” and if they happen to serve pizza, they happen to serve pizza. And I’m going to give two answers, if that’s alright. My two favorite restaurants are owned by two families that are both very close to me. The first one is this new restaurant in the Back Mountain called Prime at City Market. They have an amazing ambiance. The food is incredible. They have these garage doors on like three quarters of the walls that really open the place up in the summer. It doesn’t matter when you’re there, the vibe is amazing. The second restaurant is Rikasa in Pittston. That’s your staple Mediterranean/Italian fare. They have a great bar and awesome drinks. And the food is just incredible. We love the vibes there. We always bring our out-of-town friends there.
What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
That’s easy. My favorite thing to do is to kayak at Harvey’s Lake, or go for hikes at places like Ricketts Glen or World’s End, or Jim Thorpe, even. Hands down – some of the most amazing views in NEPA. The Lehigh Gorge is unbelievable. What’s nice about going for a hike at Ricketts or somewhere like Boulder Field at Hickory Run is stopping at The Ricketts Glen Hotel or The Bear Creek Café. Those are really good places to stop after a long hike to throw all those calories back into your body (laughs). Yeah. Those are totally my favorite things to do – just getting outside with my family and enjoying that time together. Outside of that, I do get quite a bit of fulfillment from working with the nonprofit community. I really do. It feels like a passion that I never even knew I had.
What’s next for you?
So, right now, the focus is on growing this office. I have no desire to be a corporate dentist, but, professionally, what’s next for me is making sure we continue to move this 75-year-old office forward. It’s about maintaining the quality of care that every one of our patients in the Wyoming Valley has come expect over that time. It’s a passion for me. This is not a job. This is something that’s in my blood. It’s something that’s part of my family. And I’m always very focused on making sure that we are the very best we could possibly be. That’s how it always has been. Personally, especially in these times, my focus is on basically extending empathy. I’m making sure that I’m doing my best to be the best version of myself and trying to be positive and spreading positivity as frequently as possible. That’s it – hands down. And, as for our little family, the focus for us looking ahead is being present. Everyone is all too often looking to the future, or into the past – sorry, that’s very similar to a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (laughs). Yeah. We’re in an interesting time – one that no one could have seen coming. So, the focus is on being present. And, through that presence comes mindfulness and interpersonal growth, and whichever direction that takes, is not up to us. You know? That’s about as philosophical as I can get (laughs).
Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?
I would never sugarcoat an answer to a question like this… I think that things are definitely changing here. Some people view change as good, and some view it as bad. And it’s very easy to fall off that wagon and focus on some negative stuff. NEPA is a different place from when I grew up, and my parents would say it was different from when they grew up. But life is good here. It is what you make it. Where do I see it going? I see it growing. I see it getting bigger. There are more people coming here and more businesses coming every day. I see so many people who moved away to bigger cities coming back and replanting their roots here. It’s a place where they once felt comfort – a place that helped build their self-esteem and who they are today. They started here. They got off the ground here, and I see them moving back. I see it happening now…already. This valley, the whole area is going up. We have a great thing here. I don’t know that I’d be able to be the person I am, or do all the things I do if I lived anywhere else. I don’t think it would have happened. We’re very fortunate to live here.
I kind of accidentally answered this one earlier, but I think that I can hit it from a different angle. The Wyoming Valley, and NEPA, is home to so many people. It’s home to families that have been here since the Connecticut settlement and families of immigrants who came here for a better life. People are doing extraordinary things here in medicine, engineering, architecture and art. NEPA now has a lot of different things to offer that it previously didn’t have. I always encourage everyone to try new things. Living in the city was exciting, but there’s no substitution for going on that scenic Sunday drive. There’s no substitute for being able to go to a local restaurant that’s been around and in the same family for like 70 years – and they’re still pumping out the same food! It’s the strong traditions and the all-encompassing humbling environment. That’s what brought me back. And I’d say that it is the most important thing going forward for my family. You know, once a town, or a place lets go of its traditions or Main Street, it’s gone. We’ve still got all of that here. We’ve still got Main Street. It’s not going anywhere.