Someone owes Albert Boscov $70,000, and we know who that is. It is a Vaughn D Spencer, the soon-to-be former mayor of Reading. Albert Boscov, being a shrewd businessman, will want that money back. (Unless, of course, a bum debt is better on his tax returns then a contribution to a losing political campaign.) But that shouldn't cloud the mighty judgment of the mite retail giant when it comes to dickering over the fate of one of the Boscov chain's troubled locations up there in Lackawanna County.
Welcome to Steamtown.
Steamtown is just one of many, many shopping mall around the nation hurting for tenants. Scranton city council hopes to turn things around and is hunting for new ideas to make Steamtown viable again — everything from converting the building into a Reading Terminal-style market to creating a “mixed-use lifestyle center” with lofts, retail storefronts, restaurants and offices. Or maybe transforming the mall into a casino or converting it into a skating rink.
Trouble is, grumpy old Al Boscov holds sway over what can be done to turn things around. The mall’s lease agreement with Boscov’s Department Store allows the anchor tenant to veto significant changes.
Councilman Pat Rogan is pissed:
“I was very upset to read an article in the newspaper featuring Al Boscov talking about the mall. Mr. Boscov criticized and even poked fun at many of the great ideas that have been put forward by the residents of Scranton to rehab that building. Obviously, the current formula that Mr. Boscov has a leading role in didn’t work. I was just at the mall last Tuesday, and it is a ghost town.”
Council President Bob McGoff poured some sweet-and-sour sauce over Albie's "obstinacy to change":
“I believe that Mr. Boscov is a great businessman. However, I don’t think Mr. Boscov has been very good for the city of Scranton. I think as the mall goes to auction — and it would appear that Mr. Boscov is doing everything he can to purchase the mall — he needs to be willing to consider options. ... We cannot persist in the mall structure as it is.”
Sir Albert called those who want to repurpose the mall "cranks." He said he might be open to different uses for Steamtown's second floor, but “we can’t do anything now because we don’t own it.”
Vaughn, pay up. Albert Boscov needs the cash.