By  on April 11, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — Kent Gushner is a man on a mission.

“Our store has always been known as the premier upscale men’s store in Philadelphia,” said Gushner, president of Boyds. “Now we want to be known as the premier upscale retail location in Philadelphia.”

And $2.5 million later, Boyds is well on its way. Last week, the specialty store completed phase one of a renovation project that is designed to catapult Boyds into a whole new league. The initial moves include a dramatically increased women’s wear presentation, a new upscale jewelry department for both women and men, a revamped cafe now operated by the city’s top chef and an enlarged and relocated men’s shoe department.

“We reached the conclusion that, to take Boyds to the next level, we had to step outside of men’s and build a different kind of store,” Gushner said during a walk-though last week.

The catalyst for the revamping was a change in ownership last May when Gushner, grandson of the store’s founder, Alex Gushner, purchased the business from his father and uncle. His partners are his brothers-in-law Jeff Glass and Ralph Yaffe, who serve as vice president and secretary, respectively.

Boyds, which was founded in 1936 and has been in its current location for 17 years, is viewed as one of the top independent specialty stores in the Northeast. It has 48,000 square feet of selling space and is located on Chestnut Street in the heart of the city.

A turn-of-the-century building that at one time housed a funeral home and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the building itself is a work of art with its carved columns and sweeping staircases. Before the renovation, Gushner said, the store was “heavy, dark and dreary.”

Now, thanks to the work of New York architect Daniel Barteluce, Boyds sports new, lighter casework and enhanced lighting to showcase an upper-end selection of fine jewelry. Gushner explained: “We’ve partnered with a high-end jeweler named Dan Govberg, who has been my friend since I was five years old.” Govberg closed his Center City Philadelphia store and moved the operation inside Boyds, retaining a second location in the suburbs.

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