Boscov's Department Store

Night Vision
Posted April 4, 2005

Boscov's, the country's largest family-owned department store chain, has always had an imposing large-scale chandelier hanging in the transparent entryway of each of its stores.

Not only has it been a signature element and design statement, but it's also a pleasing departure from the dulling plainness of big-box retailers. The chandeliers are reminiscent of the character and caring attitude of traditional retailers.

For its new store in Frederick, Md., a former J.C. Penney location, Boscov's discovered it didn't have the room above the entryway for its standard chandelier design.

"Because we could not go into the façade of the existing building, we built a small glass atrium out over the face of the building," says Michael Schirmer, Boscov's director of store planning and design. "But the depth was too narrow for the atrium where a chandelier would hang."

The typical chandelier measured 41/2 feet deep and up to 20 feet in height. At less than 9 feet deep, the Frederick atrium could accommodate a traditional chandelier, but installation would be a problem, and there was no room for the service lifts necessary to clean and maintain the fixture.

The challenge became: How do you create a chandelier for a very tight space that is 95 percent maintenance-free, and still projects the distinctive Boscov image to the public? Schirmer says the solution occurred to him while he was using his own Boscov's credit card. A motif of colored squares on the charge card suggested a new flatter, less deep, chandelier design embodying square and rectangular backlit panels.

Schirmer worked on the concept with designers from Olsen Deturk Architects (Reading, Pa.), and then consulted with Lighting One (Pennsauken, N.J.) on how to illuminate the proposed chandelier.

Starfire Lighting Inc. (Wood-Ridge, N.J.), the manufacturer who created Boscov's other store chandeliers and in-store lighting fixtures, was well-versed in working with different forms of fiberoptics for custom decorative and accent lighting programs. The company felt fiberoptics would be ideal for a narrow-depth chandelier and, not incidentally, highly energy-efficient.

Based on 3-D scale models that Starfire's in-house engineering department created, the installed fixture uses 136 fiberoptic points of light, backlighting overlapping translucent white acrylic panels, suspended via thin twisted steel aircraft cables. There was no need for lamps, sockets or electrical wiring.

Computer programmed from Boscov's headquarters to illuminate automatically during evening hours, the fiberoptic crystals form a bold, inverted pyramid of ever-changing shapes and colors visible from a nearby highway in either direction for half a mile.

Response to the chandelier has been so positive that similar fiberoptic designs are planned for other Boscov's stores opening later this year.

Says a pleased Schirmer of the results: "It's like the cover of a book - it just attracts your attention."

Client: Boscov's Department Store, Frederick, Md.

Design: Boscov's Store Planning, Reading, Pa.
Michael Schirmer, director, store planning/design

Architect: Olsen Deturck Architects, Reading, Pa.

General Contractor: Struever Brothers Eccles and Rouse Inc., Baltimore

Outside Design Consultants: Starfire Lighting, Wood-Ridge, N.J. (lighting fixture design and manufacturing)
Fromm Electric, Reading, Pa. (lighting and electrical equipment)
Lighting One, Pennsauken, N.J. (independent lighting sales and consulting representative)

Photography: John Lenz, Lenz Photography, Kingston, N.Y.