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Thousands swarm Boscov’s on opening day

First-day promotion raises tens of thousands for nonprofits

Staff photos / R. Michael Semple Shoppers wait for the doors to open at the new Boscov’s department store at the Eastwood Mall on Thursday morning. Thousands visited the store on opening day.

NILES — Tammy Soliman waited before first light Thursday for the doors to open at the new Boscov’s department store at the Eastwood Mall.

When they did at 10 a.m. sharp, the Warren woman — the first shopper inside the sprawling 180,000-square-foot store who had been waiting since 6:45 a.m. — entered with laser-focused intent; she wanted to get in and get out with her shopping list complete.

About 90 minutes later, she was back at her northeast side home with two sets of coffee cups, three lanterns and a 7-inch stainless steel trash can for her bathroom.

“I loved it … that was the reason for getting there early this morning (Thursday), to get the things on my list and get out,” said Soliman, who plans a return trip today to snag some gifts for Christmas.

To say Boscov’s opened with a bang would be an understatement.

Soliman was among upward of an estimated 800 people in line when the store opened. Thousands shopped there throughout the day Thursday, Day 1 of a three-day grand opening celebration for the store believed to be the largest department store to open in a new market in the U.S. this year.

Thursday also was charity day to raise money for local nonprofit groups. To get inside, shoppers had to make a $5 donation to their favorite participating nonprofit. About 200 or so nonprofits were registered for the fundraiser.

“What is significant to me is that every one of these people is doing something to support a local nonprofit. That’s a big deal … our goal was, our hope was that we could help them raise $100,000. I bet we can beat that, and that makes me very happy,” said Jim Boscov, chief executive officer of the family-owned Reading, Pa.-based retailer.

The store is the 49th in the Boscov’s chain and third at a Cafaro Company-owned mall. The grand opening continues today with a day for families that includes music and kids’ activities. Saturday will bring an official ribbon-cutting event, parade and fireworks.

It occupies about one-third of the mall’s west concourse, including the 140,000-square-foot former Sears department store. To make even more room for Boscov’s, several stores along that shopping corridor were relocated inside the mall.

“I think we’re off to a very good start. Our challenge today is to make sure we can deliver the kind of service we are proud of. It is hard today because we are going to be very busy. There are so many people that you hate to keep people waiting, and they are being very patient and very kind,” Boscov said.

The store is loaded with merchandise, a trait common to Boscov’s’ stores, but even moreso at an opening to make sure items are in stock.

“We don’t want to say, ‘great news, come and get something’ and then they find out it’s not here. Are we going to run out of anything? We may, but we are trying very hard to make sure that we don’t,” Boscov said. “Our buyers have done a great job being on the phone all the time working with our vendors, making sure the goods are going to be delivered, and if they hear there is a problem, they find a solution.”

Marjorie Chappell of Youngstown, was shopping in the women’s clothing department. So was Alice Franklin of Liberty.

“It’s got plenty of everything, plenty of everything … it’s been a great experience,” said Chappell, who arrived at the store about an hour before it opened.

Said Franklin, “I love it, I love it. It’s very diversified and (there is) a lot of selection. It’s looks like a little bit of Macy’s and little bit of Target, a little upscale because I see Dooney & Bourke.”

Franklin’s $5 donation for the shopping pass went to benefit the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation.

Diana Bauman, of Warren, said charity day raised $800 for her church, St. Paul Lutheran in Warren.

“That is amazing. We are so grateful this store is here, amazing, and what an asset to the community … this is the first businessman that has ever come to this area and that has reached out in such a way to want to make a positive influence in the community,” Bauman said.

The enormous crowd is an indication of just how differently Boscov’s does business when stacked against other retailers, said Joe Bell, spokesman for Niles-based Cafaro Company, one of the largest privately held shopping center developers in the U.S.

“They like to emphasize this attitude that some people might call folksy or throwback, but it’s true, they believe in doing traditional department store retailing and believe in sticking to those principles,” Bell said. “The founder was a humble peddler, and his reputation was everything, so he made sure he treated people right, and that is what they want to do.”

rselak@tribtoday.com

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