Local landmark The Casino Theatre has sold after more than 40 years with the same family of owners.
The theater and adjoining Village Malt Shoppe reportedly sold on Sept. 30 for $790,000.
The existing building and business in Mount Pocono started as a dance hall and nightclub in 1922. It was eventually transformed into a movie theater with a screen on stage, and 426 seats replacing the flat dance floor.
George Litz and his late wife Sheila, of Cresco, bought the theater in 1975, along with Victor Genco and John Hidebrand, who retired a few years later.
Litz recalled the original structure as “a very old and grand building.”
The owners added an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, called the Village Malt Shoppe, in time for their grand opening in April of 1975— which featured a showing of the classic “Gone With the Wind.”
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“A year later there was a fire that devastated the building, so we rebuilt this building and have been active in this building ever since,” Litz said.
The Casino Theatre and Village Malt Shoppe boasts a 1950’s vibe, and eventually doubled in size with the addition of a kitchen that made their “Dinner and a Movie” specials very popular.
The business soon became a family-friendly destination in the Poconos, adding an 18-hole miniature golf course, a family-oriented game room— and by 2004, a gift shop featuring nostalgic and retro items.
The two theaters now have digital projection and 3D capability.
Casino Theatre has been family-run since it opened. Litz’s daughter, Karen met her husband, Don Struckle at the theatre as a teen and went on to eventually lease the building from her father, and together the two helped grow the business over the years.
“It’s time to move on and enjoy retirement,” Don said. “Someone came along and presented my father-in-law with something he couldn’t refuse and he thought it was time to move on and let someone else take over and take care of the community.”
Karen said her father is 84-years-old and she and her husband have 46 years worth of memories and success behind them, “the business thrived even through the pandemic.“
According to the Struckles, they had to get “creative and innovative” during the pandemic.
“When movies got pulled immediately, that missed revenue left a gaping hole in our growing and thriving business, so my husband wired up a Nintendo Switch and then people could rent and play video games on the 32-foot screen in one theatre,” Karen said. “People could bring their own DVD’s and have watch parties on the big screen in the other theater. We were just playing host so everyone could win-win.”
The Struckles gushed as they talked about the many generations of people that they have seen return to support the theater over the years. The couple has seen regular customers return with their own children, who in turn come back with their own kids, reminiscing over stories of “first meets” and “first kisses.”
“Our best pandemic story was when a family called because their daughter’s boot camp graduation from West Point was cancelled for in-person, so we streamed it for their whole family of over 40 people in our theater,” said Karen said. “These examples all allowed us to also wait on them by offering popcorn, food and ice cream.”
Word got out, and the customers kept flowing in.
“All of this was revenue that kept us open and saved our business.” Karen said.
The Struckles said the next owners want to keep everything the same and continue on the tradition that they’ve had for decades with the theater and ice cream shop.
The couple that bought Casino are already local business owners from Pocono Township, Steve Tran and Lihn Thuc Lu.
Tran and his wife are owners of the popular Pho Saigon II restaurant in Bartonsville, which serves Pho soup, traditional Vietnamese dishes and Vietnamese iced coffee. They also are the owners of Nail Trix in Stroudsburg and PA Nails in East Stroudsburg.
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Karen said that Tran is keeping on the staff and plans to possibly change the menu at the Casino Theatre with some new Vietnamese food offerings.
“As far as for us, we plan on doing a lot of travel and being with family,” Karen said, noting that when you own a business, things like weddings and reunions are missed because the business comes first. “We are so forever grateful to the community that supported us over the years, through the good and bad times.”
“Selling it is bittersweet, after 46 wonderful years, and now we are walking away from it, it’s not easy— but it was for us the right thing to do.” Don said.
— Maria Francis covers housing, small business, and education in the Poconos. Reach her at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Historic Casino Theatre in Mount Pocono sells to local business owners
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