development of the City of Reading.
Where it all began
Boscov was born in 1929, the youngest son of Solomon and Ethel Boscov. Boscov’s Department store originally started as a mobile business in 1914, with Solomon taking merchandise to the end of the trolley line and walking from farm to farm — selling to farmers and sleeping in their barns. He opened his first brick and mortar store in 1918 — at Ninth and Pike streets in Reading.
In an interview with Digital First Media in 2014 to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary, Boscov said he wanted to work in the store by the time he was 6 years old, adding that he learned much by watching his father work.
“He was a very remarkable person — in the sense that he was concerned for others … He would try his best to help when he could,” Albert said during that interview.
Boscov is a graduate of Reading High School and graduated from Drexel University with a business degree. He officially joined the company in 1954, after serving in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.
The original store at Ninth and Pike streets was renovated and enlarged, and the company began to expand.
In 1962 Boscov’s West opened in Sinking Spring, followed in 1965 by Boscov’s North. The original Reading store was lost in a fire in 1966, but in November 1967, Boscov’s East opened in Exeter. On that same day of celebrating a new store, came word the Boscov’s West store had caught fire. Within one year, however, a new Boscov’s was opened on the same site.
Boscov became co-president of the company, along with his brother-in-law Edwin Lakin in 1969, following the death of Solomon Boscov. The pair began adding auditoriums to stores, festivals and created the still-used “Did You Boscov Today?”
Boscov began bringing 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 — all made appearances.
“They were just as talented, but Hollywood didn’t want them anymore,” he said in 2014. “As word got around, we started to pick up quite a number of people.”
The Boscov’s chain continued its expansion in Pennsylvania before expanding to New York, Delaware,
“While Albert was well-known as a retailer and a driving force behind several projects in downtown Reading, he should be equally remembered for his work as a humanitarian.
New Jersey and Maryland. By 2005 the chain had 39 stores doing more than $1 billion in sales.
A time of transition
In 2006, Boscov and Lakin decided to retire. Retirement did not mean Boscov stopped working, however. He continued 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 Goggle-Works, the nation’s largest center for the arts. In 2016 he opened the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Reading.
In addition, Boscov’s hosts non-profit programs that generate more than $600,000 a year for thousands of very worthy organizations.
Shortly after Boscov and Lakin retired, the chain, under the direction of Kenneth Lakin — Edwin’s son and Albert’s nephew — purchased 10 mall locations from Federated Department Stores.
“They didn’t have the financing for that. Maybe if everything had gone perfectly it would have been all right,” Boscov said in 2014. “But it didn’t. The economy tanked just about then and they went into bankruptcy and were going to be liquidated.”
Boscov said he was embarrassed by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy and felt he had let customers, suppliers and co-workers down.
He and Edwin Lakin put together a $305 million deal to buy the business back, and in December 2008, Boscov sat in a courtroom in Delaware — offering the only bid for the company. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.
In 2013, Boscov was inducted into the Pennsylvania Retailers’ Association Hall of Fame — the organization’s first inductee.
In 2015, Boscov made the decision to step out of the CEO role once again, naming company Vice Chairman Jim Boscov as CEO. Albert Boscov continued to hold the title of chairman.
Boscov’s burial will be private.
A public memorial service will be announced at a later date.
-- Kevin Murphy, Berks County Community Foundation
Albert Boscov in 2014 as Boscov’s Department Store LLC was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company. Boscov passed away Feb. 10 at age 87.
Albert Boscov smiles at the Exeter Boscov’s store in 2014 to mark the company’s 100th anniversary. Boscov passed away Feb. 10 at age 87.
Albert Boscov, right with Sophia Loren in 1985.