MERIDEN - Albert Boscov, chairman of his family’s namesake department store chain introduced to Connecticut when the Meriden outlet opened in 2015, 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, Pa., “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.
Boscov’s offers fashion merchandise, including traditional and designer labels, at competitive prices. Departments include furniture, oriental carpets, candy (including boxes of Boscov’s chocolates built to order), a gift department, men’s and women’s clothes and accessories.
The chain’s website lists 45 stores in Pennsylvania and six other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.
The first - and to date only - Connecticut location, at the Westfield Meriden mall, opened to great fanfare in October 2015. The retailer assumed all 34,000-square feet left vacant with the departure of J.C. Penney. The grand opening celebration included an appearance by veteran entertainer Shirley Jones and her son, actor Patrick Cassidy.
The entrance of Boscov’s to the local retail market brought a sigh of relief to business officials concerned about finding a new occupant for the 34,000-square-foot mall anchor spot.
“The best way to describe Albert Boscov would be ‘rock star,” Sean W. Moore, president of the MidState Chamber of Commerce, told The Herald. “I first met him a few months before the store opened in Meriden and instantly you felt like you had known him for your entire life. Everybody just wanted to be around his energy and enthusiasm. He was funny with lots of great stories and jokes while being simultaneously focused with the attention to the finest detail on each and every rack in the store.”
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 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 that 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 wrote. “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.”
Boscov graduated from Reading High and earned a business degree at 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 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.”
Albert Boscov’s 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 over $600,000 a year for various organizations, officials said.
“Mr. Boscov will be remembered as an accomplished and innovative businessman who provided value to his customers, but the community outreach of the family’s store is just as large a part of his legacy,” said Michael Schroeder, publisher of the New Britain Herald and The Bristol Press.
Burial will be private, but a public memorial service will be announced later. Stores were open as usual on Saturday.
An Associated Press report is included in this story.
Christopher Fortier can be reached at 860-801-5063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.