Berks

Jaccii Farris: Al Boscov's smile, laughter and jokes were infectious

WFMZ to air Boscov documentary at 9 p.m. Saturday

69-WFMZ-TV will pay tribute to the life and legacy of retail icon Al Boscov by re-airing a 2014 documentary about the retail icon and chairman of the Berks County-based chain of department stores, who died February 10 after a brief battle with cancer.

"Boscov: An American Story" will air at 9 p.m. on Saturday, February 18, on 69-WFMZ-TV. It will also be streamed on WFMZ.com.

When we started making the documentary, I knew we were profiling a Pennsylvania business legend, but I soon learned Boscov, the person, blew away Boscov, the businessman.

Al was always singing. I remember one time him singing to a group of his sales associates…"Hey! You with the smile on your face! Do you have an idea for me?"

This was Al. All charisma, all the time.

My first clue should have been when former Gov. Ed Rendell agreed, without hesitation, to narrate the documentary.

We followed Al around for a year. We walked through his stores, where he knew the price of every item and the name of every employee.

We followed him on buying trips to New York, where Al lit up every showroom we walked in to. His smile, his laughter and his jokes were infectious.

He loved to tease me about being six feet tall. We used one of those moments in the film.

"They are predicting now that women are going to be eight and nine feet tall, eight and nine, so you are a midget now," said Al.

We had 20 hours of footage -- great conversations about Al's life, his admiration for his father, Solomon Boscov, a Russian immigrant who started the business in Reading more than a century ago, and how Al helped it grow.

We watched the twinkle in his eye when he described being able to wrangle in big stars like Sophia Loren for store promotions.

But the sweetest story he told me was how he met his lovely wife, Eunice.

"I met her by deceit," Al recalled.

Eunice was an English major. Al wanted to seem like a big shot, so he so he told her he wrote children's stories.

"I kept asking him after we were married, 'Where are these stories?' and of course, he never wrote children's stories," said Eunice Boscov.

Every time we met, Al had a new story, and each time, he would treat us to a chocolate-covered pretzel and a smile.

In addition to airing the documentary at 9 p.m. Saturday, 69-WFMZ-TV will also carry Al's public memorial service live on 69-WFMZ-TV and on WFMZ.com at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 26.

If you're attending in person, it's taking place at the Santander Arena on Penn Street in downtown Reading. Doors will open at noon.

In lieu of flowers, the Boscov family asks that contributions be made to Our City Reading or GoggleWorks Center for the Arts. Online condolences may be sent to memoriesofal@boscovs.com.


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