Aug. 12, 1980:
Officials cut a ribbon made of $100 bills to officially open the new Boscov’s Boston Store on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre.
George Fowler, Alexander Dick and Gilbert Walker had opened The Boston Store in Wilkes-Barre in 1879 on the site of the current store. The business grew, and soon the trio had a store in Hazleton as well. Years later, the owners embarked on another venture involving their Hazleton store and the construction of a shopping mall. In October 1973, a Boston Store opened at the new shopping center known as the Laurel Mall.
The restaurant at the Wilkes-Barre store dated to the mid-1950s when the store was known as Foster, Dick and Walker, The Boston Store. In 1953, the owners announced plans for a $5 million expansion project that would stretch the Wilkes-Barre store from South Main to South Franklin streets. Part of the project included creating an eatery on the lower level of the building with a lunch counter and dining room called the Pennsylvania Room. The project also called for building a snack bar inside the multi-level parking deck.
Al Boscov purchased the Boston Store on Aug. 6, 1980, from Kenneth Pollock, who had bought it that May. Boscov’s deal also included the Hazleton Boston Store.
After cutting the unique ribbon, Boscov told the gathered crowd that the store would be remodeled, including transforming the store’s longtime restaurant into a new operation called the Country Kitchen. The Hazleton store would get a Country Kitchen as well.
When the Boscov’s Country Kitchens opened in Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton in 1980, they featured breakfast, an all-you-can-eat “New York Deli Buffet” that featured carved-to-order meats (turkey, ham, corned beef), cheese, hot entrees for $3.99 per person and an eight-page menu filled with all sorts of items to satisfy a hungry shopper.
In addition to being a place to grab a bite to eat while “Boscoving,” the restaurant became a place for civic groups such as the Greater Wyoming Valley Toastermasters Club, Wyoming Valley Rotarians and the Lithuanian Women’s Club to hold meetings.
On Jan. 5 of this year, Jim Boscov, CEO of the department store chain, announced that the restaurants in the stores in Wilkes-Barre; Hazleton; Pottsville; Reading North; Reading East; and Dover, Delaware, would close.
“It’s unfortunate,” Boscov said in a Jan. 6 article in The Times-Tribune. “I’m sure everybody knows that COVID has been devastating to businesses, and no businesses have been hit harder than restaurants, and that certainly was true for us as well.”
The restaurants in Pottsville and Reading East will close on Saturday, Jan. 30. The other locations, including Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, closed on Jan. 5.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 14 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast