“The Office” Puts Scranton on the Map
Sitcom burnishes the reputation of a faded Pennsylvania mining city
Scranton, an old Pennsylvania mining city whose mention is often accompanied by a gentle roll of the eyes, is now laughing back, as people from around the world visit to tour locations featured on the hit TV show, The Office.
The Office is a tongue-in-cheek comedy about the Scranton branch of a fictional paper company, Dunder-Mifflin. Though not filmed in Scranton, the show incorporates many references to real places in this city of 73,000. There’s Alfredo’s Pizza Café, from which Michael Scott, the boss (Steve Carell) ordered delivery; Poor Richard’s Pub, the office hang-out; Terry’s Diner, whose menus are strewn about the set; and Farley’s, the pub where the loser of the warehouse basketball game had to buy dinner.
“I am a fan,” confessed Scranton Mayor Christopher Doherty, noting that the show had boosted the city’s fortunes. “We took something that’s been very quirky, and made it a benefit.” Scranton has over the past six years invested $400 million on revitalization, adding new downtown cafes and shops, he said.
“I was able to change the perception of the city,” Doherty said.
Jobs are still dwindling, the population is aging and Scranton’s still not making any “best places to live” lists – in fact, Scranton was teasing contender in one newspaper’s 2001 “armpit of America” hunt. But it is receiving its 15 minutes of fame.
One of the biggest attractions is the coal mine tour. Visitors descend into the anthracite coal mines, where they find out how difficult life was for Scranton miners, and how many died. Though Office cast members took this tour, it’s never mentioned on air – maybe it’s too heavy a subject be included in such a cheeky show.
“Brian Baumgartner (who plays Kevin) made a great point, because he realized how much sacrifice went in, how many people sacrificed their lives, and understanding that was a tough job,” Doherty said.
The show instead highlights Scranton’s best features: food and drink.
“Every time Farley’s gets mentioned on The Office, I get a whole bunch of e-mails, and I get a lot of calls from people that want to come in,” said Bill Young, owner of Farley’s bar. “Typically, I could get a call—‘Hi, we’re from Alabama, and we’re coming to Scranton next week, and we want to know how to find your restaurant.’”
Cast members have also dropped by.
Actor Steve Carell announced that if someone made a Michael Scott burger, he would visit. Young took him up on it, creating a “grilled turkey burger smothered in Swiss cheese, roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato, and onions” – though so far, Carell hasn’t shown up.
“It affected us, definitely, in a positive way,” agreed Mark Minelli, owner of Poor Richard’s Pub, who now sells The Office T-shirts at the bar.
Alfredo’s Pizza Café likewise started selling T-shirts, after its pizza box was featured on the show.
“It gives Scrantonians a lot of pride,” said local resident Sarah Cognetti.
Scranton hosted an Office convention in October 2007. Many of the actors were on hand to mingle with fans, and to get acquainted with the real version of their show’s hometown; Al Roker hosted the Today Show from the University of Scranton.
“Scranton is like another character in the show,” said convention organizer Tim Holmes, who said he had a 2 a.m. cigar with actors Baumgartner, B.J. Novak and Craig Robinson. The actors now have a bit of perspective, he added. “Angela (Kinsey) said every day they get ready to shoot, [they say] ‘We have to get our Scranton on!’”
Where to Stay
The Radisson (where The Office cast stayed)
700 Lackawanna Avenue
The Office restaurants
Alfredo’s Pizza Café
1040 Washington Ave.
4118 Birney Ave., Moosic
Coney Island Lunch (where the cast enjoyed Texas wieners)
100 Cedar Avenue
The Office bars
Poor Richard’s Pub
(inside South Side Bowl)
125 Beech Street
(at the Radisson)
700 Lackawanna Avenue
300 Adams Avenue
Other Office sites
The Mall at Steamtown
300 Lackawanna Avenue
Lake Scranton (into which Michael drives his car)
The Coal Mine Tour
Follow signs on Keyser Avenue
The real Office building
401 Adams Avenue
The Penn Paper building.
The city poured $400 million into a downtown Scranton revitalization effort.
Alfredo's Pizza Cafe, from which the boss orders delivery.
Poor Richard's Pub, the office hangout.
Farley's, where the basketball game losers had to buy dinner for the winners.
Farley's owner Bill Young (right), developed a special "Michael Scott" burger.
Poor Richard's owner Mark Minelli sells The Office T-shirts at the bar.
Scranton's City Hall
Dunder Mifflin, where The Office is located, is a fictional company -- but that hasn't stopped Scrantonians from adopting it.
All photos by Leslie Minora