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Beating the odds: Boscov’s growing

Retailer continues to expand as others struggle

The Boscov’s department store at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville is the chain’s first location in the Buckeye State, but the retailer will open its second store in Ohio and its 49th location overall in the fall. The new store will be located at the Eastwood Mall in Niles. T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Although many department stores are closing their doors, one retailer continues to expand — and its chief executive said private ownership, personality, pricing and positive shopping experiences all contribute to that success.

Boscov’s department store will open its 49th location in the fall. CEO Jim Boscov said the 180,000-square-foot specialty store will replace the former Sears at the Eastwood Mall in Niles, Ohio, just outside of Youngstown. The Eastwood Mall is owned by the Cafaro Co. — the same company that owns the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville.

“Something that Anthony Cafaro (president of the Cafaro Co.) mentioned in his talk the other day, I thought was important, was that this is two family businesses working together. There’s no government money or subsidies or tax relief or any of that stuff involved. It’s just two enterprising, private companies going about doing their business,” Boscov said.

Demolition of the former Sears and the area surrounding it already is underway in Niles. Construction of the new store is set to begin in the next couple of weeks, Boscov said.

“We totally take it down to steel and concrete and create a whole new Boscov’s. It’s a long process,” he said.

Boscov said many factors go into the decision of where a new store will be located — availability, the market, demographics.

“In Niles, for example, there are a lot of people who currently are driving to Erie (Pennsylvania) or to Ohio Valley or to Monaca (Pennsylvania) to shop at a Boscov’s,” he said.

The new Niles location will be the second Boscov’s store in Ohio; the first opened at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville in 2013. It occupies a space once held by J.C. Penney, an original mall anchor that relocated to The Highlands in Triadelphia, West Virginia. Several other large retailers — Sears, Kmart, Elder-Beerman, Pat Catans, Kaufmann’s and others — have closed up shop at the Ohio Valley Mall in recent years. Macy’s just announced that its store at the mall — the only remaining Macy’s between Pittsburgh and Columbus — will close in March.

But Boscov said his company, including its St. Clairsville location, is still going strong.

“Part of our success is that when you come to Boscov’s, you can get virtually everything,” Boscov said.

The “specialty store” not only sells clothing and shoes for men, women and children, but it also has a candy store, beauty and cosmetic shop, houseware items, jewelry and more.

“I think part of it is that we’re a smaller company, that we can have a personality, personal attention to customers at individual stores. We have a broad range of departments, we have everything. Within each department, we have a deep assortment,” he said.

Boscov used coffee makers as an example of what sets the store apart from others.

“If you go into other stores, you may find a choice of five or six (coffee makers). If you go to Boscov’s you see 16, 17, 18, 19 different ones to choose from. Our pricing is better than anyone. …

“We also have a lot of people on the floor,” he continued. “A lot of stores have decided that the way to save money is to eliminate salespeople, and I think that’s a mistake. You want knowledgeable, friendly people that are there to help.”

Boscov also credits the success of the store to being a privately owned company.

“We can get involved in communities, we can have a personality, we can make fun of ourselves at times. We can be your neighborhood store. It’s much harder for a national chain to do that,” he said.

Newspaper advertising also plays a key role in the success of his business, Boscov said.

“Print media has always been a good way of getting the message across,” he said. “Anybody who lives in our community knows that we really use a lot of print media. Nowadays, it’s inserts that are being distributed in the paper. We think that you can tell a much more compelling story through print.”

Boscov said the company’s stores have a wide assortment of products, honest pricing and exceptional customer service.

“We succeed because of our partnerships and loyalty, and we’ve established wonderful partnerships and loyalty with our customers and we certainly want to continue to earn that on a regular basis. … We know who our customer is. We aim to please them,” he said.

The new store location is set to open its doors in the fall.

“We’re looking at probably October,” Boscov said.

The Eastwood Mall is located on Youngstown-Warren Road along Ohio 422 in Niles.

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