'The Office' puts sites in Scranton on the map

The Baltimore Sun

SCRANTON, Pa. -- On a recent Friday evening, Roy Minelli, co-owner of Scranton staple Poor Richard's Pub, happily chats with two downright giddy New York City lawyers, answering every question about where Roy trashed a mirror or Toby played the claw vending machine.

It's enough energy to make you truly believe, "There ain't no party like a Scranton party, 'cause a Scranton party don't stop."

The quote comes from The Office, NBC's hit mockumentary about cubicle life in Scranton, and is emblazoned on Poor Richard's shirts and pint glasses. Characters Roy and Toby are also from the show as, too, is Poor Richard's Pub itself.

The top 40 show, which garners about 9 million weekly viewers, is filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, but the attention to detail in re-creating the world outside the office space has turned Scranton into yet another character on the show. Many near-fanatical fans have chosen to become tourists, to get up close and personal with this city of about 76,000. So much so that Scranton is hosting an Office convention this weekend, featuring appearances by many of the show's actors.

The show "really put Scranton on the map," says Mari Potis of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.

It is a relatively easy task to hunt down the real locations mentioned on the show and compare and contrast how local businesses hold up to their fictional representations. Some - Chili's, Hooters and Benihana - don't exist in Scranton. Others, such as Alfredo's, Farley's or radio station Rock 107 are the real deal. But how about local spots most prominently featured on the show, such as Poor Richard's, Pennsylvania Paper & Supply or the Mall at Steamtown?

As it happens, all that was required to determine the truth behind The Office was a tour on a lazy Scranton afternoon.

Poor Richard's Pub: On the show, which won last year's Emmy for best comedy, Poor Richard's has a certain charm - if you count a back-alley bar with an entrance nearly blocked by a trash bin as charming. The pub is referenced repeatedly on the show.

Unlike its depiction on the show, the pub is spacious, and there's no sign of the logo mirror that Roy broke. And that claw game that human resources representative Toby spent hours on? Sorry, not here, but there is one in the bowling alley.

Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Co.: Each week, one of the first images TV audiences see when they tune in to The Office is a historic brick tower owned by the 85-year-old Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Co. The structure appears in the show's opening credits.

The footage for the credits was nabbed in 2004. That's when John Krasinski visited the company to research his role as Jim Halpert, a salesman at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin, a fictional paper and office-supply distributor. Scranton was chosen as the setting of the new show partially because of its believable distance for a regional office of a New York City-based business.

The tower looks exactly the same as it does on TV. "Our tower is obviously on the show every week, so we've become a cultural landmark of sorts," company president Douglas Fink says.

The Mall at Steamtown: Last season, to show his appreciation, Michael Scott took the female Dunder Mifflin workers to the mall for a day of shopping at Victoria's Secret, eating frozen yogurt and lunching at the food court.

In the episode, audiences are treated to shots of a sprawling shopping center with a Borders bookstore, and characters mention a Gap Kids and an American Girl store. But while the real Mall at Steamtown has more than 90 retail stores, these three aren't among them.

The mall's wide-open food court could be lifted from any shopping center in America with one exception: It contains the now-famous large red-with-white lettering "Welcome to Scranton" sign shown in the opening credits. Originally located along the North Expressway, this sign was taken down and replaced with a multicolored version. Mall management persuaded Scranton city officials to dust off the old sign for display in the food court as a photo opportunity for tourists.

The sign is just one way the mall has helped Scranton embrace its new place in pop culture. Throughout the shopping center, there are numerous Office references, including Dunder Mifflin banners. The mall has also hosted a visit from Rainn Wilson, the actor who portrays fan-favorite Dwight, and made him an honorary mall security guard.

Aaron Sagers writes for The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call.

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