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Community , Why NEPA?

Michele Polito of Electric City Sweets – Why NEPA?

“A lot has changed, but of course, it’s still Scranton. I feel like it’s a little big city, in a way.”

Michele Polito was just a college student when she decided to strike out on her own. The Scranton native had been studying pre-med at The U and working at United Colors of Benetton in her free time. She loved going on the buying trips so much that she wondered… what if being a doctor wasn’t her true calling? So she transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology and made her way to New York City—the start of her sweet road to success.

Michele landed her first job as an assistant buyer for Dylan’s Candy Bar, a chain of candy shops owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter. The experience brought together two things she loved: sweets and style. Her career only grew from there. In New York, Michele had the chance to connect with famous designers, work for high-end brands like Saks Fifth Avenue and even launch her own handbag line, HYD NYC.

And then COVID came. The “city that never sleeps” suddenly shut down. Michele decided that it was finally time to come back to Scranton. With plenty of time at home to think, she created Electric City Sweets, her own line of signature chocolate bars. Using her boundless creativity and experience from Dylan’s, she came up with fun, irresistible flavors like s’mores, salty toffee crunch and red velvet cake, just to name a few (although classic dark chocolate is still her all-time favorite).

Even after spending years in New York, Michele found that Scranton still had the hometown charm and hardworking values that she grew up with. She loves the close-knit community and the ability to work remotely (goodbye, New York commutes!). We met Michele at Zummo’s Café, right down the street from her home in Green Ridge. And we had to ask—why NEPA?

 

How long have you lived in NEPA?

I was born in New Jersey. My parents were born and raised in this area, so I had a lot of family roots here still. I moved back here when I was three, lived here until I was about 19 and then I moved to New York City for college. I just moved back in February of this year.

What brought you back to NEPA?

I moved back due to COVID. I was living in New York City working for multiple different positions. COVID hit, and no one really knew what was going to happen. The current position I had was overseeing a large retail chain, which was also a restaurant. They had to close all their doors because it was indoor dining, so everyone got furloughed. COVID kind of kicked me out of New York at the time. Then, whole circle of life thing, I moved back here to take care of my parents.

Did anything surprise you when you returned to NEPA?

I feel like a lot is the same. A lot of the same faces. But I see there’s a lot of growth too. Like Zummo’s, for instance. I remember when I was growing up, this was a candy store. Saint Paul’s Parish is my church, so I went to CCD, and we would always come here to get penny candy. Places like this are growing. It’s up and coming. In downtown Scranton, I feel that a lot of businesses have changed. They’re putting a lot into the community. A lot has changed, but of course, it’s still Scranton. I feel like it’s a little big city, in a way. And having family roots here really helps. It’s like I came back home.

What do you love about your town?

The sense of community. It really is almost more like family. Literally, every place that I walk into, I know someone. It’s funny. My boyfriend moved here with me, and he’s from New Jersey. He’s like, “How do you know everyone?” I’m like, “Because I grew up here.” He’s like, “But I grew up in my town, and I don’t know everyone. You could say hello to someone everywhere you go!” I think, even having left the community for so long and coming back, it’s still the same. I think that’s the charm of Scranton.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

My Uncle Joe Macciocco and my Aunt Lori own the Villa Maria in West Scranton. It’s been a favorite of mine, of course. We have holiday dinners there. On Thanksgiving, we have 50-plus people, and he hosts us all the time. When I eat there, it’s like eating at home. It’s really great hometown Italian food—delicious.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

We have some friends a little north of here who have a big farm. We go up there in the summer and swim in the lake. It’s really different from New York in the sense that you can get out and actually enjoy nature, which is really nice. Locally, we’ve been going on the Heritage Trail a lot. Since we’re right here, we ride our bikes over. It’s gorgeous. Also, Sweeney’s Beach is super cute. We stumbled upon that as well, and I don’t think a lot of people know about it. I actually took my dad over. He’s lived here for 73 years of his life, and he never even knew it existed. It’s a beautiful park where you can picnic, and it’s right on the Lackawanna.

What’s next for you?

I think it really is just focusing on growing the brands that I have—HYD and Electric City Sweets—in this area. Aside from the actual product line, I started doing these candy buffets where I’m hired for birthday parties or doing favors. I’ve been getting some really positive reviews on that. So just staying focused on my brand and my family. Getting to spend time with family is really important to me these days.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

You see so much growth. There’s talk about a train that was supposed to be coming from here to New York and New York and back. For some reason, I think that’s going to happen. If that does happen, I think there’s going to be a lot of growth in downtown Scranton. A lot of older buildings are turning into apartments, and the whole apartment community is growing. It’s exciting to see and hear.

Why NEPA?

I probably said this, but just the sense of community, family roots and values. That’s pretty much it. Family—why NEPA is family.

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