Albert Boscov, chairman of a century-old department store chain, died Friday of cancer at his home in Reading, according to a nephew, Jim Boscov, CEO and vice chairman of Boscov's .
He was 87.
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. Boscov's Maryland locations are Westminster, White Marsh, Frederick and Salisbury
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 co-workers like family and made shopping fun."
Albert 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 announced plans last month 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 posted a note last week on its Facebook page saying Albert 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," Albert 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 Mr. 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.
Mr. Boscov graduated from Reading High and earned a business degree from Drexel University, 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 Mr. 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," he once said. "They enjoy themselves and, hopefully, we make a friend."
His charitable efforts included founding the nonprofit Our City Reading to help that city restore abandoned homes and revitalize the downtown area, and setting up a senior citizens center in downtown Reading and a Police Athletic League community center. Boscov's hosts nonprofit programs that generate over $600,000 a year for various organizations, officials said.