By Denise Allabaugh, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — New carpeting, floors, fixtures, lighting, paint and expanded selections can now be seen throughout each of the five floors of Boscov’s department store in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The renovations are part of a nearly completed makeover that cost more than $1 million, according to Al Boscov, the 86-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of the Reading-based department store chain.
It is the largest restoration project taken on since Boscov purchased and improved the building on South Main Street in 1980.
Boscov said he plans to attend a grand reopening event to celebrate the refurbishment at Boscov’s on Sunday, June 5.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Boscov said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We’re proud to be part of downtown Wilkes-Barre. We’re proud of the store’s new look.”
The Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association is helping to plan the grand reopening at Boscov’s, which will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:45 a.m. A number of downtown Wilkes-Barre businesses will participate in a showcase in Boscov’s auditorium on the fourth floor from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For a $1 donation, shoppers will get the chance to win prizes or taste samplings. The money donated will go directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Sales for the grand reopening will continue for three weeks, said Irene Kelly, Boscov’s regional public relations manager.
When Boscov bought the Boston Store — originally Fowler, Dick & Walker — in 1980, it was one of three department stores remaining in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The Isaac Long store had just closed and the Lazarus Department Store was preparing to shut down. Pomeroy’s hung on until 1986.
Over the last 36 years, little work has been done at Boscov’s until now.
“I think it needs it,” Boscov said. “It’s been a long time.”
Today, Boscov’s remains one of the largest — and one of the last — family-owned department stores in the country, with 44 stores across seven states.
While other department stores are closing, Boscov said his chain has been growing. Boscov’s just opened a store last year in Connecticut and will open a location near Utica, New York, in October.
The closing of other stores led to some opportunities for Boscov’s, a company that is valued at more than $1 billion, he said.
“We seem to be doing well in the market. We continue to give good value,” Boscov said. “We’ve been very successful.”
Boscov added it is “nice to be part of the revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
“Downtowns haven’t scared us. There are customers there. There are reasons for being part of downtown,” Boscov said. “We think Wilkes-Barre has a bright future. We see downtowns coming back.”
John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, is pleased with the renovations completed at Boscov’s, saying it looks like the store was “reborn.”
“It has a whole different feel to it. It looks like a whole new store,” Maday said. “Any time you have this type of activity that is this significant, a $1 million investment, that shows the downtown is alive and well. We’re robust and Albert Boscov sees that.”
Maday said he believes one key to Boscov’s success is the store’s employees, many of whom have worked there for years.
Employees include Tim Wert, manager of the men’s department. He has worked for Boscov’s for 34 years and formerly managed the electronics department for 30 years until it closed.
Remodeling work has been underway in the men’s department for the last five weeks and it now includes new carpeting, lights, fixtures and bigger aisles. The renovations are long overdue, Wert said, and he hopes the improvements will attract more customers.
Shoppers interviewed at Boscov’s on Tuesday said they like the completed renovations.
Hanover Township resident Laverne Perry, who shopped for dresses with her 4-year-old granddaughter, said she has been shopping in Boscov’s for years and she likes the remodeled departments, selection and prices. She shops at Boscov’s for all of her 13 grandchildren.
“They have beautiful clothing for children and the prices are not bad at all. I come here before I go to the mall,” Perry said. “I love this store.”
If you go:
A grand reopening event will be held at Boscov’s department store in downtown Wilkes-Barre on Sunday, June 5, to celebrate completion of a more than $1 million renovation project.
The Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association is helping to plan the grand reopening, which will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:45 a.m. A number of downtown Wilkes-Barre businesses will participate in a showcase in Boscov’s auditorium on the fourth floor from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For a $1 donation, shoppers will get the chance to win prizes or taste samplings. The money donated will go directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Sales for the grand reopening will continue for three weeks.