The Pennsylvania Retailers' Association has created a "Retail Hall of Fame" to highlight the retail industry in Pennsylvania.

Tonight, Albert Boscov will deservedly be the first inductee during a ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Reading in Wyomissing, Berks County.

Boscov, the chairman and chief executive officer of Boscov's Department Store, is the perfect choice.

What Boscov has done not only in the retail industry, but for communities and the local economy, is nothing short of amazing. He initially helped develop Boscov's Department Store into a successful chain, retired, then came out of retirement to rescue that chain from bankruptcy. Today it is one of the largest family-owned retail chains in the country.

By refusing to let the business fall, he saved literally thousands of jobs.

Boscov's nearest stores are in Hazleton, Allentown, Pottsville and Reading. But he knows the power of regional advertising. The firm's circulars are regularly inserted in the TIMES NEWS.

We in the newspaper industry hold special admiration and appreciation for Boscov. He has never abandoned a genre of advertising that he credits with helping to build his business - newspaper advertising.

While many other chains have cut back on such advertising, Boscov retained the momentum and it appears the results speak for themselves.

Boscov is a true businessman.

It was in early 2006 that he announced his retirement as chairman of Boscov's. The store was flourishing at the time. It was sold to private investors.

By August 2008, the store had to deal with some difficult issues, including bankruptcy. Two months later, Al Boscov and his brother-in-law, Edwin Lakin, bought the assets of the firm again and were responsible for bringing Boscov's out of bankruptcy.

Boscov is more, though, than a businessman.

He's a philanthropist. He donated money to Penn State's Berks campus for its library and to Genesius Theatre for restoration and further improvement of its main-stage building in Reading.

He's an actor. He performed at Genesius Theatre as Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof" in the theatre's "Broadway Musical Review."

He's creative. He has created the Goggle Works Center for the Arts, the largest in America, an IMAX, and 11 other theatres and has started Restaurant Row all in downtown Reading.

Also he has started work on 30 subsidized work/live apartments connected to the Goggle Works for juried artists primarily from New York City and Philadelphia.

He's civic minded. He worked with the late Gov. Robert P. Casey to establish a Boscov's store in the Steamtown Mall in Scranton, which was vital in the development of the downtown area of that community.

He's a humanitarian. He had convinced the office of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to sell all the HUD houses in Reading to him for $1 each so they could be fixed-up for struggling families.

He's a family man, stating in his biography that of all his accomplishments, he is most proud of his family: his wife, the former Eunice Cooper, and their three daughters and five grandchildren.

And, he's down to earth. When visiting stores, he chats freely with all employees from managers to clerks to janitorial staff. With the media he gives reporters of small circulation newspapers as much time as he gives to major newspaper staff members.

What a great first selection for the Pennsylvania Retail Hall of Fame.

To Al Boscov, we say, "Congratulations." You deserve the induction. You've earned it.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]