Journal Opinion: Hooray for Boscov’s!

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The debut of the new Boscov’s Department Store at the Eastwood Mall is a hopeful sign for the Mahoning Valley economy and for the struggling retail sector nationwide.

The store, the 49th in the family-owned chain, opened this month with some 220 employees, a figure company officials expect to bring to 250 in time for the holidays.

Boscov’s stocks a wide array of merchandise and offers features such as a candy counter, travel center and community room that will be available for local organizations. 

Delayed from a planned opening a year ago by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reading, Pa.-based business staged a series of events heralding the opening of the 180,000-square-foot store. The celebrations began with a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber breakfast Oct. 6, followed by a “charity day” fundraiser the next day and a ribbon-cutting Oct. 8. When the store fully opened, lines to get in the doors were long and the crowds apparently were excited to shop in a new – and well-stocked – department store.

The decline of bricks-and-mortar big box retail is a phenomenon that the pandemic obviously accelerated. But don’t tell that to Boscov’s and the Cafaro Co., the Niles real estate developer that operates the Eastwood Complex. They are to be congratulated for their perseverance in developing the new store, which revitalizes a large space that could have remained empty in today’s retail environment.

Indeed, Boscov’s, according to press reports, is the only department store to open in a new market anywhere in the country this year. It now occupies the space (and then some) vacated a few years ago by the struggling Sears chain.

Other local retail casualties include Dillard’s and Sears at the Southern Park Mall in Boardman, the Boardman and Niles Toys “R” Us stores that closed when the chain went out of business, and every area Kmart.

Boscov’s local debut, followed by the opening of Michigan-based Meijer’s new store in Boardman, portends greater faith in the local economy as well as improvements in the national economic environment. The Boardman Meijer, for example, is the first of three stores the retailer plans to open locally.

Notably, just two weeks after Boscov’s opening, Washington Prime Group will celebrate the opening of DeBartolo Commons at the Southern Park Mall, a revitalization of another of the Mahoning Valley’s legacy retail and dining complexes.

Having more physical stores to bring people to a retail center contributes to the economic vitality of the surrounding retailers and restaurants, helping to provide more jobs and adding to the local tax base.  

It also contributes to quality of life, a feature that more businesses are considering as they evaluate where to site new operations. Certainly, Boscov’s decision to open here will send a signal to other businesses – retail and otherwise – about confidence in the local economy.