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The Tentacle


May 21, 2003

Welcome To Frederick, Boscovs! Where Were You 25 Years Ago?

John P. Snyder

With the addition of Reading (PA) based Boscovs to our town, the retail market has really taken a leap forward. The new 165,000 square foot store now arising from Penneyís former spot in the Fredericktowne Mall is a welcome addition. Itís a terrific store with a fine tradition that will breathe new life to our areaís oldest mall. For me, however, it closes a loop on an odyssey that began 25 years ago.

In the summer of '78, I was just out of college and employed as a junior account executive ( alright, salesman) for WFMD. My goal in life was to be a television mogul, the general manager of a large market station. Since those jobs weren't generally offered to those just out of college, the usual course of action was to sell time at a reputable station to gain experience.

It was a wonderful experience. My boss at the time, a great fellow with a long Frederick lineage, took the time to teach me the fine art of selling time. He was patient and interested in my success.

While other stations handed you the yellow pages and a list of off-limits accounts to young reps, WFMD offered a list of existing advertisers to me as a base to get going. If I wanted to make more in commissions than what the list generated, then I had to make the list grow.

On my first day on the job, my boss took me around to introduce me to my new accounts. It didn't go well. Our first stop was to see Miss Helen Fordyce at the Holiday Inn. She was happy to see us but had to break it to us that she had to stop advertising for a while.

Ditto for Buddy Corson at Frederick Automotive. I was getting nervous. It occurred to me that I was cursed and not meant to be in the business. At our third stop Mr. Dave Oland at Renn Pontiac delivered the same news. I was holding back tears by then.

The tension was broken just outside of the dealership when my boss said: "Dammit Snyder, you've been in town two hours and already you've screwed up your account list!"

Happily things got better. That summer the FSK Mall opened and there was a sense that Frederick was on a tremendous growth curve. I noticed that my list, although it contained reliable but small advertisers, had no "heavy hitters." The Routzahnís and the Hiltnerís, along with the banks and bigger car dealers were all claimed. I was determined to benefit from the anticipated retail growth. I vowed to be on top of any new retail accounts that were surely heading our way.

Being young and single, with time on my hands after work, I became familiar with the various watering holes around town. I was partial to Slimís Halfway Hut, on Grove Road between Rt. 355 and Rt. 85. It was a wild place to be sure. Penny Callas and his band played there.

The new Sheraton, now a Holiday Inn, next to the new FSK Mall offered up Harriganís Lounge with certainly more of a genteel atmosphere than my beloved Slimís. There I befriended a commercial real estate poobah who kept me abreast of what might be in the offing new account wise. One night, in between a few scotch and waters he divulged a large secret.

"Boscovs is coming to the FSK Mall later this year", he said with a certainty that made me believe him immediately.

The next day I couldn't wait to get to work so I could do the leg work to claim the account. I called up to Reading to get the name of the person who handles the broadcast advertising and other names. I then presented the information to my boss, along with my source.

He congratulated me and urged me to stay on top of it.

I, of course, had visions of having the largest advertiser on the station on my list. I saw myself making the transition from calling on Foxes Sport and Bait to handling large orders from Boscovs. I thought about looking for a new car.

Month after month, I waited patiently. Because the people from Crown America, who owned the mall, were mum on the subject, I took it to be a yes. Boscovs was coming to the FSK Mall.

Months turned to a year and no Boscovs. My boss, never one to pass up the opportunity to insert the needle, asked me if I had included Boscovs in my yearly projections.

By 1982 I had given up hope and defected to Salisbury where I helped a start up an ABC station, Channel 47.

By 1988 my old boss was now the general manager of the old WZYQ. He hired me as the general sales manager. So I returned to Frederick. Still no Boscovs.

I have been out of the business 10 years now. What happens? Twenty-five years since I received the tip, Boscovs comes to Frederick.

Ah, the circle of life!



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