If you’re hungry for a timely reduction of the unappetizing legacy of former Lackawanna County Commissioners Pat O’Malley and Laureen Cummings, read Times-Tribune Staff Writer Jon O’Connell’s story on today’s front page.
Jon reports that Charl-Mont “restaurant” owner Gino Majewski recently declared personal bankruptcy and hasn’t made a single lease payment since June, when he opened the business in the Lackawanna County Government Center at the Musty Corpse of the Globe Store. Because the space was still under construction, the county gave him a break on the $1,500-a-month rent until September. Majewski signed a three-year lease in December 2018, agreeing to pay $1,500 per month.
He also received a $25,000 small business loan the county kept quiet about until I stumbled over it while perusing the monthly bills. The discovery came after I attended a “walk-through” of the business before it existed. Preening for the cameras, O’Malley and Cummings couldn’t say enough about how wonderful the new Charl-Mont would be, but neither said anything about the loan.
That didn’t change when I started asking about it. Read the resulting columns here and here. The county soon killed the loan program and voters sent Cheese and Crackers packing. That might have been the end of the story, but Majewski is still trying to make a business out of the mess O’Malley dragged him into.
It’s an uphill battle. No parking. No sidewalk-facing door. No restaurant-grade fire-suppression system, so no fryers or open flame for cooking.
“I think people got the impression in the beginning that the Charl-Mont was going to be the old Charl-Mont of the Globe,” Majewski told Jon. “This isn’t the Charl-Mont. This isn’t the Globe Store anymore.”
No, it isn’t, and it was never going to be. That fantasy was all O’Malley’s making, with an assist from Cummings and a taxpayer loan floated on the down-low. The rush job O’Malley engineered at the “new” county center was supposed to be a political win for him, but once the public got a look inside, it became a weight around his ample neck.
O’Malley needed a diversion, a bright corner in the grim livestock barn he and Cummings built. He would resurrect the Charl-Mont! Everyone loves the Charl-Mont!
But nobody wanted to run the Charl-Mont. O’Malley shopped it far and wide before settling on Majewski, who needed a $25,000 county loan just to open the doors. In the run-up to the Primary Election, O’Malley couldn’t say enough about how great the resurrected Charl-Mont would be and how proud he was to give a hardworking small businessman an opportunity to revive a beloved artifact of the downtown’s former glories.
When O’Malley lost the election, he also lost interest in Majewski, who was left holding a flaming bag of Charl-Mont. Cheese and Crackers have left the building. Majewski is still there, juggling the consequences of a political stunt gone sour.
When Jon reached Cummings for comment, she said she didn’t know Majewski was late on the rent. She also seemed not to remember serving four years as a de-facto majority commissioner.
“It was never brought to our attention,” she said. “But a lot of things weren’t brought to my attention because I was the minority commissioner. I was left out of a lot of things.”
O’Malley’s response was even more weaselly. Asked to comment on Majewski’s struggles in the business he put him into and sold to the public as a historic opportunity, O’Malley had little to say.
“I’m not a commissioner anymore and didn’t know anything about his background,” he said.
O’Malley didn’t leave a tip.