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The story behind Wilkes-Barre's giant coffee cup

Newswatch 16's Melissa Steininger tracked down a woman who has a giant-sized coffee dream.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Thousands of people drive past the unique building on Spring Street in Wilkes-Barre. It's boarded up and long abandoned, just like the dream behind it.

"People go and take their pictures, pose by it. It's like a landmark now," said Peter Torchia, owner of a nearby car wash.

The cup-shaped building has sat empty for nearly two decades.

People have come up with their own theories about what exactly this building was supposed to be.

"Some people will ask about it. Some people thought it was a missile silo at one time," Torchia said.

Even the youngest neighbors have their own ideas.

"It's supposed to be a tea or coffee shop. They would sell tea or coffee here. And It was a real big thing until the owner just decided to leave it. "

Something like that.

"It was a dream I had, kind of like an epiphany that I wanted to have a drive-thru espresso cafe in the shape of the coffee cup," Amie Zurewich said.

Zurewich was the mind behind the building back in 2003 at just 23 years old.

As a business student at Luzerne County Community College, she worked to create an entire business plan, one that she holds on to 20 years later.

"Oh, I put all my eggs in one basket, to tell you the truth."

Zurewich called her business Cup of Heaven, and the actual plan was just as big as the dream itself.

"I want people to experience everything. When they drive up to it, it's steaming out the top. And the smell of the fresh-roasted coffee is being pushed through air curtains out the window, and they can smell it."

In 2005, Zurewich's hopes began to rise as the building on Spring Street in Wilkes-Barre began to take shape.

"Every door was opening, and I felt great, like dreams can come true for poor girls."

But that's where things went horribly wrong.

Zurewich paid a contractor $200,000 to construct a building shaped like a coffee cup. The work got started in 2008 but never got finished.

By the time she found another contractor, the banks had backed out because of the housing crash that same year.

When all was said and done, Zurewich was nearly $500,000 in debt.

"I let it suck me dry so bad," Zurewich said. "Lost my house, my rental property, my foster kids, my house—everything."

Zurewich tried to switch her focus. She started a coffee shop, City Perk, in Pittston. After a couple of years there, she closed that business and moved to North Carolina to start over.

Today, she lives in Bloomsburg, where we talked over—what else? —a cup of coffee.

While it took over a decade for Zurewich to pay off her debt, that dream on Spring Street never faded.

She, like those who pass by, still holds on to hope.

"I drive by often," Zurewich said.

"Hopefully, someone, someday, will make something of it," Torchia said.

"It would be cool if someone bought it. Then my dad would have somewhere to buy coffee that isn't super expensive,"  Robert Thomas said.

An abandoned building and a dream we now know is still very much alive.

"I'm looking again. After the housing crash, it was impossible to find more investors. And after the pandemic, it was really hard. But I'm looking again," Zurewich said.

She's still on a mission to buy back a giant coffee-sized dream.

The property is owned by the business next door, and the owner notes that it is for sale.

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