Sheila Sankar is the co-owner and operator of Crotti’s on Ash, a classic cocktail and gourmet grilled cheese lounge located in Scranton. Sankar runs the bar, which opened 10 months ago, with her boyfriend, Joe Crotti. She is a native of Archbald and is a graduate of Bishop O’Hara High School. She later studied at Indiana Institute of Pennsylvania, the Art Institute of Philadelphia and Luzerne County Community College. She received a degree in pre-law from Penn State Worthington Scranton. She lives in Dunmore.
Meet Shelia Sankar …

Tell us a little about Crotti’s on Ash.
It’s a grilled cheese bar, and typically on the menu we have five different types of grilled cheese. There’s an original American. And we have bacon/bourbon, which has bacon, sauerkraut and spicy mustard. We also have a Caprese, with tomato, basil, olive oil and mozzarella.

And we have one for dessert, with mascarpone cheese, strawberries, Nutella, honey and chocolate syrup. Joe, who got some of the ideas from New York, wanted to bring a different kind of classic corner bar into the area. We have 35 or 36 different bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle, which no other bars have. It’s like $1,600 to $3,500 a bottle, depending on the time of the year. And people are buying it for $100 a shot. We’re also starting whiskey tastings and wine tastings.

What do you enjoy the most about working there?
I’ve been bartending since I was 18. This is what I know. I was at Tink’s and Heil’s while I was in school, and after they closed, I was going to get a day job and do that whole thing, but Blu Wasabi in Clarks Summit called me and I ended up being there for nine years. And towards the end, I was managing. I know it. I love it. And then Joe had the idea to open a bar, and I said, “No.” (Laughs.) But looking back, I’m really happy that we did. It’s definitely a journey. I like people. And I like making drinks. I like really clean martinis. I infuse my own flavored vodkas. I like to stick with a clean, healthy concept for the bar, which I feel is kind of different for this area.

You’re also an artist. With your busy schedule, do you still do any paintings?
Yes. I’d say about 80 percent of the paintings in the bar are mine. I also paint a lot of animals – people’s pets. I’ve always loved animals and cartoon characters. That’s what comes the easiest to me. It’s fun.

What to you enjoy doing in your free time?
I used to work out all the time, but since we’ve had the bar I haven’t had time. But I like doing it, and going hiking. And I really like painting.

Favorite music?
I’m a big ‘90s baby. Tori Amos and Blind Melon are probably my all-time favorites. And Ani DiFranco, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. And, for a curveball, Lady Gaga.

All-time favorite movie?
“The Departed.” I must have seen it 80 times. I could probably recite half of it.
Favorite TV shows?
“Game of Thrones,” “Dexter” and “Boardwalk Empire.”

Do you follow sports?
I have been forced to watch football and the Green Bay Packers because it’s constantly on my TV. I had to paint a giant “G” in my boyfriend’s son’s room, so I am a Packers fan now. (Laughs.)

Favorite city?
New York.

Favorite vacation spot?
A beach, with a piña colada and blue water. I don’t care where.

Favorite thing about NEPA?
The people. It’s a small town. People know each other and are really supportive of each other.

Favorite food?
Chicken tenders. And crab legs.

Favorite holiday?

Biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like spiders. That’s a literal pet peeve. And I don’t like it when customers snap their fingers for a drink. Or they wave their hands, or scream, “Hey bartender!”

Guilty pleasure?
Probably, on a day off, just going away. Going to New York. Going to bars, trying drinks and hanging out. And I like Peppermint Patties.

Any pets?
A Boxer, Titan.

Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
I’m really social, and I talk a lot. I’m used to being in the restaurant business. But I had severe anxiety growing up and panic attacks until I was about 16 years old. I didn’t speak. I wouldn’t go out in public. My mom always said, “I don’t know what happened, but you just flipped the switch.”

Have you had a memorable defining personal moment?
I would never show anyone my artwork. Ever. Most of it was all at my mom’s house. When I started dating Joe, he pushed me to do a First Friday. This was five-and-a-half years ago. He said, “Just do it.” And I did it, and I ended up selling nine of my paintings. I was crying, hysterically. And I haven’t stopped selling paintings. But back then, I was so afraid to see people’s reactions … I was so hard on myself … but him pushing me to do that brought my wall down. I never believed in myself, but he pushed me to do that, and to embrace it, and to keep painting.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

photos by emma black
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