Reflections: Albert Boscov had a heart of gold and the golden touch of King Midas

The injection of energy and the infusion of personality that personified Albert Boscov were as remarkable as his marvelous accomplishments that will remain vivid in the folds of time.

What a life force he was!

There was no checking his energy or ebullience. With his door to stagnation permanently bolt-locked, the abundantly animated workaholic with an omnipresent sparkle in his eyes and quip on his lips became a transcendent titan as a retailer, developer and philanthropist.

Only a killer disease like pancreatic cancer could snuff his luminous spirit at the age of 87.

His retail career began helping his father in their modest Ninth and Pike store in Reading.

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It was a rather humble beginning for a man who would become head of the nation’s largest family-owned department store chain.

But it’s not where the egg cracks, it’s where the bird flies.

And what a flight it was.

In an era when many department stores are vanishing or drastically shrinking their footprint, the Boscov’s chain reports strong sales and has added stores. The company employs more than 7,500 workers and plans to open its 46th store near Erie later this year.

By early 2006, Boscov’s had 40 stores with sales of more than $1 billion. He retired in 2006 but the company in his absence soon was savaged by the crashing economy and an ill-advised decision to acquire 10 more stores.

Boscov took over the chain again in 2008 and against all odds, he led Boscov’s out of bankruptcy.

Experts said it couldn’t be done. Then again, those experts were not named Al Boscov.

The man small in stature cast a giant shadow that transcended the realm of retail.

He was an amazing philanthropic figure, exuding benevolence with numerous non-profit organizations.

His nonprofit agency, Our City Reading, spawned numerous projects in the city -- the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts at Second and Washington, the GoggleWorks Apartments at Second and Washington, the Reading Movies 11 with the IMAX theater across from the GoggleWorks, the Santander Bank operations center at Fifth and Penn and the Doubletree by Hilton Reading hotel in the 700 block of Penn.

Our City Reading also bought abandoned homes and renovated about 600 of them for sale to low- and middle-income families.

When Boscov looked in the mirror, he saw the face of the ultimate renaissance man.

If they ever tell the stories of all those who worked with him, let them say that they walked with a giant. They walked with Albert Boscov.