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Retailer Albert Boscov, 87

Boscov opened his company's first department store in

Boscov opened his company's first department store in 1962. Credit: AP / Christopher Dolan

READING, Pa. — Albert Boscov, chairman of a century-old department store chain, has died. He was 87.

Boscov’s CEO and vice chairman, Jim Boscov, said in a statement that his uncle died Friday of cancer at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania, “surrounded by his loving wife and three daughters.”

Albert Boscov was credited with driving the growth of the business established by his father in 1914 to sales in excess of $1 billion and employing more than 7,500 people.

The Reading-based chain’s website lists 45 stores in Pennsylvania and six other states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

Jim Boscov called his uncle “truly one of the giants in the retail industry.”

“Like his father, Albert Boscov maintained the principles of hard work, honesty and treating customers fairly and with respect,” the company said. “He treated his coworkers like family and made shopping fun.”

Boscov announced Feb. 1 that he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He expressed confidence in the company’s leadership, adding that while other retailers have had losses and store closures, Boscov’s last month announced plans to open two new stores.

He said he wanted the current year to be “our best possible year” and wished his co-workers good luck, saying “I love you all.”

The store last week posted a note on its Facebook page saying Boscov and his family had been “deeply moved and humbled by the outpouring of love, concern and support” they had received in previous days.

“I’ve been amazed at the amount of wonderful notes that you’ve sent and I know I don’t deserve them, but I certainly enjoyed them,” Boscov said. “You’re a wonderful group of people that have been part of my family for 87 years and I’m most proud of all of you.

An obituary published in local newspapers said Boscov “first made a name for himself as an expert fly catcher in his father’s neighborhood store . . . receiving a penny for every fly he caught, until his father realized he was being shown the same fly over and over.”

He met his wife, Eunice, “in the Adirondacks pretending to be a children’s book writer (because clearly that’s whom every woman dreams of marrying),” the obituary said.

Boscov graduated from Reading High and got a business degree from Drexel, where he started his first business, U-Eat-Em, delivering hero sandwiches. After Korean War service in the Navy, he returned and in 1962 opened Boscov’s first full-service department store. The chain survived a 2008 bankruptcy filing that brought Albert Boscov out of retirement, shedding 10 stores and emerging from bankruptcy the following year.

“We like to give people a reason for coming to Boscov’s even when they don’t want to buy anything,” Boscov once said. “They enjoy themselves and hopefully we make a friend.”

His charitable efforts included founding the nonprofit Our City Reading to help the city restore abandoned homes and revitalize the downtown area, and to set up a senior citizens center in downtown Reading and a Police Athletic League community center. Boscov’s hosts nonprofit programs that generate more than $600,000 a year for various organizations, officials said.

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