Wait, what's that glint when Jim Boscov smiles? Braces. The chief executive of Boscov's Department Stores sported a shiny grill, making him look charmingly adolescent for a 66-year-old running a billion-dollar retail chain.
But maybe it fits, because he is from the newest generation in charge of the company his grandfather founded in 1914.
"I'm looking forward to getting my driver's license soon and I'll have my bar mitzvah next year," he joked.
In March, Jim took over the CEO slot from his uncle, chairman and retailing legend Albert Boscov, 86, who came out of retirement in 2008 to bring the family-owned chain out of bankruptcy.
"He's very active and puts in a very long day," Boscov said in his office. Across the hall, his uncle was running a marketing meeting. "People have a hard time keeping up with him," Jim Boscov said. "He's very sharp."
What will change?
We're not going to make radical changes. We've got a formula that works and would be silly to change for change's sake. One thing we know is happening is that newspaper circulation is declining. Our primary means of letting our customers know about the values we offer is through print. So right now, in the other office, there's a meeting about how to get our print advertising in front of [more] people. Clearly, electronic media are becoming more prevalent and we have to learn how to use it intelligently.
Obviously, Albert Boscov flunked retirement. What about you?
Yes, I'm here at 66 when most of my contemporaries are retiring. But I have no interest in retiring. I'm enjoying what I'm doing and looking forward to doing this for many years.
Your uncle is such a character - running up the down escalator, using a grocery basket instead of a briefcase. Are you always in his shadow?
I have a similar personality, but it's toned down when I'm with him. When I'm out on my own, I may be more outgoing or kid around more. When I'm with him, I let him do that.
There's only one Albert Boscov. I think if I were trying to be Albert, I would fail miserably. If I'm me, I can do that very well. I've been doing that for a while.
So what's your holiday shopping forecast?
Traditionally, people look at figures like employment numbers, the housing market, and all those things are favorable. With the help of good cold weather, I think we'll have a very healthy Christmas, an increase of 3 to 5 percent.
It's easier for people to think about buying sweaters and a winter coat when it's cold.
You started your career at Boscov's, but left to run other retailing businesses.
Like a lot of people at 40, I wanted to make my mark and do my thing. I left recognizing that I was leaving an opportunity that I would probably never come back to.
So why did you come back?
After the family brought the business [out of bankruptcy], Albert and I talked about me coming back. Originally, it was just to help him [temporarily], but it clicked. We worked well. We never talked about it again.
Did leaving help you?
It gives you some added perspective. I grew up a little bit. I gained self-confidence. I learned that I could succeed on my own, and could put to use some of the things that I had learned.
Anybody in the fourth generation coming along?
Not yet. It's not an immediate concern, but it's something that we'll be looking at over the next several years.
Any advice for retailers?
We've survived when other smaller, family-owned businesses disappeared. The secret of success is that we celebrate our relationship with our vendors. We visit them in New York every week and we bring them chocolate-covered pretzels or candy or whatever.
Chocolate-covered pretzels are great, but . . .
Business is soft right now for some vendors. They have had some big retailers cancel an order - maybe a thousand dozen, two thousand dozen. [The vendors] will give us a call because they don't want to own it and offer it to us at a great price. We pass that along to our customers. So it's creating partnerships.
Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.