"We bought it in December [more than] three years ago and had a decent year, and the next three years were terrific," with annual sales at more than $1 billion, he said. Besides the White Marsh store, the chain also opened a new store last year in Monmouth, N.J.

"For a company like this to survive a bankruptcy is miraculous," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York City. "Boscov's is part of a breed that disappeared."

Boscov's is thriving, he said, because, unlike other regional department store chains, it never tried to go upscale or eliminate departments.

"They stuck to a lot of the old traditions," he said. "And Boscov's maintained a sensitivity to price."

Albert Boscov has had a knack for knowing his customers and knowing where his stores will be embraced, Davidowitz said. The store should do well in White Marsh, helping the other mall retailers, because "Boscov's draws traffic," he said. "They're promoters. It's a win-win for everybody."

Boscov said the company plans to stay focused on a strategy he calls "honest pricing," rather than the strategy of inflating prices on the selling floor to make it appear the sales prices is a greater discount.

"Pricing on merchandise today is not honest," he said.

He was heartened by the turnout Friday, when he estimated the store did about $300,000 worth of business. He said he expects about $600,000 worth of business Sunday, the day of the official grand opening.

Jim Boscov, a Boscov's vice chairman and Albert Boscov's nephew, said the two most common responses he heard from customers Friday were how glad they were to see the store return and how much lighter and brighter it appeared.

Indeed, the company invested about $6 million in renovations, updating some features that hadn't been changed since Bamberger's filled the space years ago, Albert Boscov said.

"It was the best of the three Baltimore stores," he said of the former White Marsh Boscov's. "With more merchandise and a better-looking store, we're back to what I've believed in for 50 years. This is what a Boscov's should look like."

Alfie Schrodt of Essex bought one of Friday's preview tickets through her church, with the proceeds benefiting Harford Community College. Schrodt said she's glad to have a Boscov's about 10 minutes from her house; now she won't have to drive farther to the Westminster store.

"I was just so anxious to get to Boscov's," she said as she prepared to shop on Friday. "They have great quality."

Pat McGowan came just to look but walked out Friday with a good buy on a piece of luggage.

"Everything seems to be organized very well," McGowan said. "The sizes were easy to find and everything was well displayed. I would shop here again."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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