EDITORIAL: A tribute and thank you to Albert Boscov

We admire.

We respect.

We love.

We thank you.

Few heads of companies would receive a message of such heartfelt appreciation from their employees. Yet those are the words Boscov’s department stores have on display to honor their fallen leader, Albert Boscov, who died Feb. 10 at the age of 87.

In the announcement of his passing, his nephew Jim Boscov, CEO and vice chairman of Boscov’s Department Store LLC, called Albert Boscov a “giant in the retail industry.”

“He was a man of vision and passion and he had a profound influence on the retail business community and the community at large,” Jim Boscov said in a company statement.

Albert’s career spanned his lifetime, starting at age 6 in the store his father founded in Reading. He joined the company management in 1954, after serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War and with his brother-in-law Edwin Lakin built the largest family-owned department store chain in the country.

By 2005 the chain had 39 stores in five states doing more than $1 billion in sales.

To the customers, particularly in the area of Pennsylvania where Boscov’s was best known, the stores were a part of community life. Auditoriums and special events were fixtures in the stores, including the still-used “Did You Boscov Today?” and the Albie Awards.

Boscov invited Hollywood legends to play the store auditoriums and appear at store openings. Dorothy Lamour, Henny Youngman, Rita Moreno, Mickey Rooney, Cyd Charisse, Morey Amsterdam, Sophia Loren, Bobby Rydell — all made appearances.

In 2006, Boscov and Lakin retired with Albert devoting more time to his civic and philanthropic work.

He founded and led the nonprofit Our City Reading Inc. to assist the city to restore abandoned homes. Under his leadership more than 600 families had the opportunity to own and live in a new home. He led the effort to equip a Senior Citizens Center in downtown Reading and in 2006 he opened the GoggleWorks, the nation’s largest center for the arts. In 2016 he opened the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Reading.

Perhaps most telling of Albert Boscov’s devotion to the stores was his successful effort with Lakin to bring the chain out of bankruptcy in 2009. Boscov said he was embarrassed by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy and felt he had let customers, suppliers and co-workers down.

He and Lakin came out of retirement and put together a $305 million deal to buy the business back. In December 2008, Boscov sat in a courtroom in Delaware — offering the only bid for the company. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

Today, while other retailers struggle to stay afloat, Boscov’s has been slowly and quietly expanding.

The chain’s success in no small measure was because of Albert Boscov’s personal touch. His greetings to customers, words of encouragement to employees and constant presence in stores from Coventry to Exton to Plymouth Meeting to Granite Run malls gave a tone of confidence and customer service that set Boscov’s apart.

Although best known as a philanthropist in the city of Reading, Albert Boscov left a mark on every community where his stores reside, sponsoring charity events and giving amateur entertainers a stage for their talents. He was recognized for his personal touch and kind words to everyone he came in contact with.

He influenced department store shopping with his hands-on manner in every community where a Boscov’s store operates -- providing jobs, extending customer service to shoppers, and offering creative outlets to youth.

He wandered the store floors chatting with employees, welcomed customers, met with buyers and had a say in every ad that carried the Boscov’s name.

The news of his passing left store employees “simply heartbroken,” said Jim Boscov.

Albert Boscov was a man to admire. His life gave others an example of work ethic, compassion and caring, not only for the community at large in his home city of Reading but also for every clerk and customer who made his stores thrive.

He earned admiration, respect and love. He earned our universal “thank you.”

Rest in peace.

comments powered by Disqus