READING -- According to a release from nephew Jim Boscov, retail industry giant and chairman of Boscov's Department Stores Albert Boscov passed away Friday evening following a battle with cancer. He was 87 years old.
Jim Boscov, CEO and Vice Chairman of Boscov's Department Stores, LLC said in a statement Friday evening, “Albert Boscov was truly one of the giants 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," he added. "And we are committed to continue on the strong foundation he has created and to carry on in the spirit and philosophy he’s instilled. Building on his legacy we will remain the largest family owned department store in the country.”
Born September 22, 1929, he was the son of shop owner Solomon Boscov, who owned a modest corner store in Reading.
When Al took over the family business, he managed to expand it into one of the biggest regional department store chains
in the Northeast.
He took the single store in Reading, and turned it into three larger stores in and around Berks County.
Hailed as a marketing whiz, Boscov even managed to turn his last name into a verb, coining the iconic phrase "did you Boscov today?"
His expansion plans soon brought Boscov's to all across our region -- from Pottsville to Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and the Susquehanna Valley.
His iconic store in the Electric City opened in 1993 as part of the Mall at Steamtown, of which Boscov was part-owner.
By the time Al Boscov retired in 2006, his was a household name in four states.
Retirement didn't last long, however. When America hit 2008's "Great Recession," the department store chain
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Boscov answered the call -- riding to the rescue and buying back the assets of his company to
keep it under family control. During that time, he even personally lobbied local communities for tax breaks in order to
right his financial ship.
Boscov's weathered that storm, but a few years later, he was faced with another crisis -- this time at the Mall at Steamtown. After the mall's second anchor store pulled out, the mall defaulted on a loan, resulting in a sheriff's sale.
But much like the namesake's tenacity, that Boscov's store remains in Scranton, and Al was always fond of saying that it was one of the most successful stores in his chain.
John Basalyga, owner of the now "Marketplace at Steamtown" in Scranton, released a statement Friday about the passing of Al Boscov.
"He was a visionary businessman and an outstanding retailer. He helped transform downtown Scranton, and we are deeply in his debt for what he did to sustain what has become the Marketplace at Steamtown. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be missed."
In recent years, Boscov's also made expensive upgrades to older stores, such as the five-story downtown landmark in Wilkes-Barre and Fairlane Village Mall's staple in Pottsville.
Al Boscov always became an involved member of every community where he had a store, making it a point to contribute to the arts and efforts toward downtown rehabilitation in each place.
However, his legacy will be the department store chain, located in seven states across the mid-Atlantic -- the one he built ... and then saved.
A company which will be without him for the first time in more than 60 years.
A public memorial service is set for February 26. The service starts at 3 p.m. at the Santander Performing Arts Center on 136 North 6th Street in Reading.
His burial will be private.