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EATONTOWN, NJ-Many of this country’s family-owned retail operations have long since been gobbled up by publicly owned retail giants, but one of the survivors is Boscov’s. The Reading, PA-based department store chain, which offers a complete hard- and soft-goods merchandise line with service on the same level as Nordstrom’s, has taken another step forward by grabbing two of Federated Department Stores’ locations.

There was nothing wrong with the locations. But Federated decided to shut down its Stern’s division, mostly because of its substantial overlap with other Federated divisions. Most of the former Stern’s stores have become either Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, but stores being vacated at the 1.5-million-sf Monmouth Mall here, and the one-million-sf Ocean County Mall in Toms River were put on the market because both centers already had a Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s wasn’t compatible.

But no sooner had the two Stern’s closed when they had a replacement. Boscov’s will spend $2 million to renovate the former Monmouth Mall Sterns and hopes to have it ready by mid fall. The former Stern’s at Ocean County Mall will be expanded from 140,000 sf to 170,000 sf and renovated to the tune of $4 million. Both stores will employ 450 when fully up and running, according to Boscov officials.

“We are an old-fashioned department store,” explains Boscov’s COO Ken Lakin. He’s referring to the fact that the chain offers everything from appliances to fashion apparel, which is unusual in this age of retail specialization.

Boscov’s, which was founded almost a century ago by Solomon Boscov, is highly promotional in its approach to retailing. The company expects to compete head-to-head in that regard with existing players in the Central New Jersey market. Altogether, the chain has 34 department stores in five states, including South Jersey units in Atlantic City, Voorhees, Moorestown and Vineland. The two new stores are the northernmost incursion in New Jersey. The company has a total of $1 billion in annual sales and 9,000 employees.

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