America’s largest family-owned department store, Boscov’s, is coming to the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport. Set to open Oct. 7, the location will be the 50th store opened by a company still thriving in a time when many other department stores are closing their doors.
Boscov’s CEO Jim Boscov said its success is due in-part to the principles established by his grandfather. Solomon Boscov worked as a peddler and began the company in Berks County, Pa., after immigrating to the United States in 1914.
“Economy Shoes and Dry Goods,” the original Boscov’s, became the corner neighborhood store. Solomon quickly developed a reputation for being an honorable guy with fair prices and good quality, who was also kind. During the Depression, he helped families get the goods they needed by allowing them to pay whenever they were able.
The mission of community is still key to Boscov’s today.
“You are a neighborhood store, you’re a member of the community,” Jim Boscov said. “You offer fair prices, you treat people well and it all comes back to you.”
Boscov said while there are certainly other ingredients to the company’s success, the culture of “being a human being, being a member of the community is what matters most.”
Boscov’s also continues to carry merchandise other stores have given up, its owner said. Where many retail stores in the category have moved to apparel only, Boscov’s stays true to the meaning of the word “department.”
“We have a candy department where you can still buy bulk candy the way you used to be able to go up to a candy counter,” Boscov said. “Kids have birthdays every month of the year, not just November and December, so we have a year-round toy department. Also, a small appliance department.
“We really are a full-service department store,” he said. “We have departments and products that are not found in all stores, and within each department we have a broader assortment, because you can appeal to a much broader range of people.”
Using coffeemakers as an example, Boscov’s said other stores may have six to eight options. “We’ll have 21 options, and they’ll range in price from $19.99 for a Mr. Coffee coffeemaker to $199 for an espresso machine,” he said.
“Whoever the customer is, they’re going to find it at Boscov’s. And that’s true whether you’re talking about cookware, housewares, or underwear – really anything.”
You will also get good prices all the time, he said. Boscov pointed out that in some stores you need a coupon to shop, because the merchandise is so expensive — or at least it’s marked to be.
“We don’t do coupons because it’s a silly game – we do honest pricing from day one,” he said. “If they are $36, we’ll be $29.99 most of the time.”
But people are what really keep them going, Boscov said.
“I think we have something that other stores don’t have anymore and that’s service, we have people,” he said. “We have people who want to help and who are empowered to help.”
So far, the Bridgeport location has hired 150 people, all of whom are being trained by Boscov’s employees from other locations.
“I don’t think you teach the culture of a company to anybody by saying ‘Here’s a handbook, this is what a Boscov’s is, please read it.’ I think you work side by side with people and you get a sense of who Boscov’s is,” the owner explained.
In addition, Boscov said the company works to be involved in the community. It recently held a luncheon for about 150 area nonprofit organizations to participate in Boscov’s “Charity Day – Shop for a Cause” event that will be held the first day of a multi-day grand opening event Oct. 5 – 7.
“When a new store opens there is curiosity, and you can use that curiosity to raise funds for nonprofits,” Boscov said.
Each participating nonprofit will sell 250 shopping passes for $5 each and will keep the entirety of the proceeds for the organization.
The passes allow the holder to shop in the new Boscov’s two days before its official grand opening, giving them access to special sales and deals.
“They come two days before the official grand opening, all the grand opening specials, all the entertainment, the facepainting, balloons, the sampling of candy. There’s music – we’ve got a grand piano that’s playing in the center of the store with a vocalist. We’ve got make-and-takes for the kids. We’ve got $35,000 of register to win things,” Boscov explained.
Some of the items to be won include an all-inclusive trip for four to Disneyworld, a $5,000 shopping spree in the bedding and furniture department, a diamond bracelet, and a professional grade mixer from housewares. There is also a year’s supply of candy where you can go to the store once a month to get candy as well as a year’s supply of their homemade fudge.
“If you live here, if you work here, if you play here, you need to be a part of the community,” Boscov said. “I think that we will help the nonprofits raise somewhere between $100,000 -$150,000 in one day.”
The second day of their grand opening event, Oct. 6, will be open to the public and will be focused on family fun with entertainment.
Saturday, Oct. 7 is the grand opening which will feature the 85-piece marching band from Bridgeport High, celebrities, a ribbon-cutting, and a fireworks display synced to music.
On Oct. 5-6, for the charity and family fun events, the store will have a grand piano and vocalist playing at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The nationally recognized STEM educator, meteorologist, and author Jason Lindsey aka “Mr. Science” will be there Oct. 7-8 doing his program “Hooked on Science” at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Coincidentally, Oct. 7 is National Chocolate Covered Pretzel Day, so Boscov’s will be giving out free chocolate pretzels while supplies last.
Beginning on opening day, a stage will be set up inside the mall at the front of the store where Elvis Presley Jr. will perform free shows at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. every day from Oct. 7-14.
The following Saturday, West Virginia’s own The Davidsson Brothers are set to perform.
Taking over the space previously held by multiple stores at the Meadowbrook Mall, the Bridgeport Boscov’s will be one of the largest department stores in West Virginia at 150,000 square feet.
Boscov said the new store will have both self-checkout and fully staffed registers, so people are able to choose their preference.
“Our job is to provide people with what they want. We are never going to eliminate full-service, we’re not going to play the game my supermarket plays where they limit it to one full service forcing everybody to the self-checkout. We are never going to do that,” Boscov said. “Technology can help us be better but not at the expense of human contact.”
Boscov said that while a lot of companies promise to make a difference in the communities they enter, Boscov’s charity is “not one and done. I think the excitement really is just beginning. I think a year from now you’ll see – yeah, they really do get involved.”