Boscov’s will reach a milestone later this year when it opens its 50th retail department store.
Jim Boscov, chairman and CEO of the Exeter Township-based Boscov’s department store chain, traveled to Bridgeport, W.Va., to announce the retailer will open a new 151,000-square-foot store in that community this fall.
“It’s exciting — our 50th store in a wonderful market, and it’s part of our plan to open one store per year,” Boscov said in an interview Thursday.
It will be Boscov’s first in West Virginia, and will give Boscov’s a presence in nine states.
“It is a new state, but it’s not so far from our store in Saint Clairsville, Ohio, and not so far from our western Pennsylvania stores,” Boscov said. “One thing that is attractive is that maybe 50% of the people in that market have heard of Boscov’s and maybe 25% of them have already shopped at a Boscov’s. We’re not moving into a place where they don’t know who and what we are.”
A view of the Boscov’s store at Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing. (MEDIANEWS GROUP FILE PHOTO)
Boscov said another thing that appealed to the company was there is a mall there that is successful and owned by a company that is anxious to have them there and had space available.
The mall is owned by Cafaro Inc., which Boscov said owns properties where four Boscov’s store are located. The new store will fill a space in Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport — previously occupied by Sears and other adjacent mall stores.
The Sears store was empty, but Boscov said it was only about half of the space needed to add a new location. Tenants in adjacent stores are being located to other open spaces in the mall to accommodate Boscov’s space needs.
The project has been in the works for about six months so far, Boscov said.
“We talked about it, investigated it and visited to make sure this would be a good market for us because at 50 stores you can’t afford to make a mistake,” he added.
Demolition work inside the Sears has been completed, and Boscov said work is being done inside the other stores as the tenants are moved. He expects that within a week or so carpenters and some of the other trades will start with the construction.
A family business
He added that Boscov’s has the advantage of being a family-owned business — marking its 109th year in business.
“If you are a public company, you are working to maximize the return for your shareholders,” he said. “If you’re a private family company, you’re working to make sure you keep the company healthy with the expectation of passing it on to the next generation. That also means making good decisions for the health of the company, which translates into things that are good for your customers. You’re working for your customers, you’re not working for the stockholders.”
He added that he sees other companies “doing silly things because the stock market likes it, not necessarily because it’s good for the company.
Environment for expansion
Asked about expansion in the current economic climate, Boscov said people know Boscov’s is going to offer the best value.
“I think people are cautious, and when people are cautious, they want to make sure their money goes as far as it can,” he said. “And as long as we stay true to who we are, I think we will continue to do well.”
The last Boscov’s store to open was in October 2021 in Youngstown, Ohio. While Boscov said the company decided to skip a year in 2022, the company’s strategy to open one store per year has not shifted.
And while he could not say where the company might go in 2024, he did share the company’s criteria.
“We want to find some place that’s either in our existing footprint that fills an opening or it stretches the boundaries a little bit,” he said. “We don’t want to go hopscotching across the country. And we need to find a location that’s big enough because we don’t have a little store. So we’re always looking.”
The good news, he said, is there are mall developers out there looking for tenants.
Boscov’s operates 49 stores in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Ohio. Twenty-six stores are in Pennsylvania, including eight in Berks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.