Boscov’s Bringing Selection, Service to Eastwood Mall

NILES, Ohio – Count Kerrie Rybicki among those in the Mahoning Valley who are looking forward to the opening of the new Boscov’s department store in the Eastwood Mall later this year. 

Rybicki, of Warren, was at the mall Monday morning with her daughter for the announcement that the chain would bring a site here. She acknowledged that toy shopping is a challenge with the closing of Toys R Us. And, as she’s married to a veteran, Rybicki is also pleased with the everyday veterans discount Boscov’s offers. 

“We’re pretty excited,” she said. “We love coming to the mall, so for us it’ll be somewhere new to shop and check things out.” 

Cafaro Co. executives were joined by Jim Boscov, president and CEO of the department store company, for a press event at the mall Center Court to announce Eastwood as the location for the 49th Boscov’s store. The company is based in Reading, Pa.

Boscov’s has been looking at Eastwood for several years but discussions picked up about eight months ago after Sears closed, Boscov said.  

“We talked about how we might do it, and as we got to know more about the market, we got very excited about our ability to address the needs of the community,” he said. 

The company looked at the community’s demographics and whether the potential customer base met its criteria. It also determined the success of other local stores and whether they are the kind that appeal to Boscov’s customers. 

“We have a very broad range of products. We’ve got a broad range of customers also,” Boscov said. “We’ve got a store that satisfies the customer who wants the very high end and the customer who’s really looking for bargains.”     

Boscov’s will be “the single biggest retailer to ever open its doors within Eastwood Mall,” said Anthony Cafaro Jr., co-president of the Cafaro Co., which owns the mall. 

The store will occupy about 180,000 square feet, including the 120,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Sears. It will also use additional space in the west corridor of the mall. Preparing the space for Boscov’s will be a “multimillion-dollar project,” Cafaro said. 

Among the store inventory are clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, appliances and toys, Boscov said, as well as offers less-common selections, such as an in-house candy store and a community auditorium. 

Boscov’s offers a wider selection of products within each category, its CEO said. Where other department store chains offer perhaps five to seven kinds of coffee makers, Boscov’s offers 15 to 17, he said.   

“People have said to us, ‘Gee, if you could fit into a 150,000-square-foot space we have a wonderful location for you,” Boscov said. “The problem is, what should we eliminate?” 

Jim Boscov, CEO of Boscov’s department store, says the chain had been looking at moving into the Eastwood Mall for several years.

Other services the store provides include gift registries, layaway and free wrapping. 

When it opens in October, Boscov’s will employ about 300, both full- and part-time. 

“What we hear is that what’s missing is service,” he said. “Having knowledgeable people who are empowered to help makes a big difference. Having lots of inventory, being able to buy everything in one visit, makes things a lot easier, too.”  

Boscov also hailed the chain’s competitive pricing, noting strong sales in Texas and California, two states in which it does not have a physical presence. 

Online sales account for about 6% of its business and in-store sales have increased annually over the past 10 years, the CEO said. 

“It’s the single digits but that’s very healthy when you look at what’s happening in other companies. They’re not showing any growth and growth is essential,” he said. “Our online growth is double digits but we’re not doing what some companies did and throw all of our energies to make it an online business. We think that brick and mortar gives you the ability to have a one-on-one relationship.” 

While other retailers are reporting gains, those are only in their online business, and their brick-and-mortar business is declining, he continued. Boscov’s does about $1.2 billion in annual sales between the two retail aspects.

“I’m very proud of the fact that our brick-and-mortar business is going up in every store,” he said.    

Cafaro hailed the Boscov’s announcement as the latest in a series of positive developments for the Mahoning Valley in recent months, including Lordstown Motors Corp.’s plans to make electric trucks at the former General Motors Lordstown Complex, GM and LG Chem’s plans to manufacture batteries here and construction of the HomeGoods regional distribution center. 

“While others in the region may be tearing down buildings, at Eastwood we’re continuing to build, renovate, reinvent and expand,” Cafaro said, an apparent reference to the demolition of the former Sears space at Southern Park Mall in Boardman as part of that mall’s renovation. 

He also pointed out that the work at Eastwood “is funded 100% by private business, without government incentives, subsidies or tax abatements,” drawing another contrast to the Southern Park project.  

Eastwood will be the third Boscov’s in a Cafaro-operated property. The store also has a site in the Cafaro-owned Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville, Boscov’s only other Ohio location. 

Boscov’s typically outperforms other department stores at Cafaro Co. properties, “having probably one of the highest square-foot performances in the industry,” Cafaro said. “We expect them to do great here at Eastwood.” 

Boscov also cited another advantage to being privately held.  

“Publicly traded companies have to try to look good at the end of each quarter,” he remarked. “As a private company, we can focus on pleasing our customers and make decisions that are good for the long-term health of the business.” 

Others on hand at Monday’s event also eagerly anticipated the store’s opening.  

“The mall and area needed something new going in there. It’s opening up a lot of jobs for a lot of people,” said Becky Lyda. She is manager of Party On, in the Eastwood Mall Complex’s McKinley Centre, and Everything Buckeyes, which is in the same corridor of the mall where Boscov’s will open.

Ginny Pasha, president and CEO of the United Way of Trumbull County, said she has shopped at the Boscov’s in Mill Creek Mall in Erie, Pa. The array of products is “pretty amazing” and the store was laid out in a consumer-friendly manner. 

“As a consumer, I always appreciate having choices and this will give us another shopping choice. I’m particularly excited about the candy shop,” she remarked. 

Pasha noted that the company has a “rich history” of partnering with United Way and looked forward to establishing a relationship. Last year, the company said, it provided $2.5 million in community support to areas it has stores. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.