Al­bert Boscov had a heart of gold and Mi­das’ touch

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - OPINION - By Mike Zielin­ski Colum­nist

The in­jec­tion of en­ergy and the in­fu­sion of per­son­al­ity that per­son­i­fied Al­bert Boscov were as re­mark­able as his mar­velous ac­com­plish­ments that will re­main vivid in the folds of time. What a life force he was! There was no check­ing his en­ergy or ebul­lience. With his door to stag­na­tion per­ma­nently bolt-locked, the abun­dantly an­i­mated worka­holic with an om­nipresent sparkle in his eyes and quip on his lips be­came a tran­scen­dent ti­tan as a re­tailer, de­vel­oper and phi­lan­thropist.

Only a killer dis­ease like pan­cre­atic can­cer could snuff his lu­mi­nous spirit at the age of 87.

His re­tail ca­reer be­gan help­ing his fa­ther in their mod­est Ninth and Pike store in Read­ing.

It was a rather hum­ble be­gin­ning for a man who would be­come head of the na­tion’s largest fam­ily-owned de­part­ment store chain.

But it’s not where the egg cracks, it’s where the bird flies.

And what a flight it was.

In an era when many de­part­ment stores are van­ish­ing or dras­ti­cally shrink­ing their foot­print, the Boscov’s chain re­ports strong sales and has added stores. The com­pany em­ploys more than 7,500 work­ers and plans to open its 46th store near Erie later this year.

By early 2006, Boscov’s had 40 stores with sales of more than $1 bil­lion. He re­tired in 2006 but the com­pany in his ab­sence soon was sav­aged by the crash­ing econ­omy and an ill-ad­vised de­ci­sion to ac­quire 10 more stores.

Boscov took over the chain again in 2008 and against all odds, he led Boscov’s out of bank­ruptcy.

Ex­perts said it couldn’t be done. Then again, those ex­perts were not named Al Boscov.

The man small in stature cast a gi­ant shadow that tran­scended the realm of re­tail.

He was an amaz­ing phil­an­thropic fig­ure, ex­ud­ing benev­o­lence with nu­mer­ous non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

His non­profit agency, Our City Read­ing, spawned nu­mer­ous projects in the city — the Gog­gleWorks Cen­ter for the Arts at Sec­ond and Washington, the Gog­gleWorks Apart­ments at Sec­ond and Washington, the Read­ing Movies 11 with the IMAX theater across from the Gog­gleWorks, the San­tander Bank op­er­a­tions cen­ter at Fifth and Penn and the Dou­ble­tree by Hil­ton Read­ing ho­tel in the 700 block of Penn.

Our City Read­ing also bought aban­doned homes and ren­o­vated about 600 of them for sale to low- and mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies.

When Boscov looked in the mir­ror, he saw the face of the ul­ti­mate re­nais­sance man.

If they ever tell the sto­ries of all those who worked with him, let them say that they walked with a gi­ant. They walked with Al­bert Boscov.

When Boscov looked in the mir­ror, he saw the face of the ul­ti­mate re­nais­sance man. If they ever tell the sto­ries of all those who worked with him, let them say that they walked with a gi­ant. They walked with Al­bert Boscov.

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