PITTSTON — Standing out in the cold doesn’t concern Dora Nalaschi. She has her music and hand warmers and that’s all she needs, she said.
Nalaschi has been a “waver” for Liberty Tax Service for the past decade. As she enters her 11th year, she finds herself in unfamiliar territory as the company recently opened a new location at 145 S. Main St., marking its second Pittston location. There also is a Liberty Tax Service at 26 Laurel St.
Nalaschi, 61, of Pittston Township, loves her job and doesn’t mind the cold. She said being on Main Street for the first year has been a positive change.
“I like to wave at the people, especially when they smile, beep or wave,” she said. “I would say 99 percent of the people notice me. Some of them are tired, but I feel like they perk up when they see me.”
Wavers stand in front of Liberty Tax locations and target passersby to try and lure them into the office. The wavers are dressed as the Statue of Liberty and are usually holding signs or dancing on the sidewalks.
Nalaschi started her Lady Liberty career at the Laurel Street location near the bypass in Pittston Township.
“The cars go a little slower down here,” she said of the Main Street location.
Franchise owner Mark Mihalka, a Seton Catholic graduate who currently lives in Suscon, realized the need to move to the Main Street location when the city’s revitalization began a few years back. Mihalka knows what it takes to get people in the doors at Liberty Tax. One of his mottos is, “We wave, you save.”
Over the course of a waver’s year, they make personal connections with the vehicles and people they see. Mihalka was recently approached by a city worker and asked where Dora has been. With the new location, Dora hasn’t spent much time on Laurel Street lately.
Nalaschi, who works four days a week at the Main Street location now, took her talents to the Laurel Street location one day this past week to satisfy the city worker’s request to see her.
“You build a connection with the people,” Nalaschi said. “I do everything I can to see them.”
Nalaschi means a lot to the business, Mihalka said.
“She’s dedicated to everything she does and people acutally look for her,” Mihalka said. “If you’re driving to work every day and she waves to you, you get that special contact.”
The franchise owner said he’s spent many days waving to cars in the area and still does that occasionally. Any time he goes into town — to the bank, for example — he’ll put on the Lady Liberty costume and take to the streets.
“You have to keep moving,” he said. “I want them to dance and move around. We used to have one waver that danced so much he would be sweating.”
The company provides its wavers with hand warmers and hot chocolate throughout the day. There are always extra coats and layers available.
“I wish it was my idea,” he said. “They are the most important part of the organization. That’s what creates a special connection with the community.”
Mihalka is also entering his 11th tax season with Liberty Tax. His location on Main Street opened for business on Jan. 4 and said the reception he’s received on Main Street has been positive.
Along with the wavers, Liberty Tax recently implemented a new, fun way to approach customers this season — Reverse Halloween. Liberty Tax representatives will take to the streets, dressed as Lady Liberty, and hand out bags of candy. The opposite of Halloween, Mihalka said.
“Everyone on Main Street has been very friendly,” he said. “We felt with the revitalization with downtown it was important to get an office down here to be part of the downtown.”
Over the past several years, Mihalka has learned that giving back to the community is just as important as anything else. Weeks ago, he approached Paint Pittston Pink with a “Refer a Friend” opportunity. Now, anyone who enters Liberty Tax and says Paint Pittston Pink referred them, the company will give $50 to the organization for every new tax return.
Mihalka said his proposal is available for all charities in the area.
“That’s a very powerful thing we like to do,” Mihalka said.
Liberty Tax is open year around. Mihalka runs the two locations in Pittston, along with locations in Carbondale, Dunmore, Hazleton, Plains Township and Scranton.
“Our mission statement is ‘Set the standard, improve each day, and have some fun,’” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here — our main philosophy is to have fun.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick