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For a majority of her 47-plus years as a Boscov’s employee, Deb Drum has worked as a cosmetic consultant helping ensure customers look their best on the outside.

But more importantly, she’s also helped many of her clients be their best on the inside by lending a sympathetic ear.

“It’s funny that you ask if I feel like a psychologist because, yes, the girls and I have talked about that – especially when I used to wear the white lab coat,” said Drum, who will retire at 5 p.m. on March 4. “You can’t believe some of the stuff that clients have said to me. They have told me their deepest and darkest secrets.

“That’s part of building relationships, though. Having a sympathetic ear and showing empathy.”

While there were dark moments, many discussions with clients revolved around much happier occasions. One of her greatest joys as an employee – including the last 22 years as a Clinique consultant – was to see a repeat customer mature from young child into adulthood.

Deb Drum has spent much of her 47-year tenure at Boscov’s working as a cosmetic consultant. (Provided photo)

“Their mothers would bring them in to get some makeup for their 7th- or 8th-grade dance, and then the next thing I know, they have grown up and are asking me to help them with their wedding makeup,” said Drum. “It really makes me wonder where the time went.”

To put her loyalty to Boscov’s and longevity into perspective, Drum has worked 47 years and four months of the 51 that Boscov’s has been located in Lebanon. The Lebanon store, which was the first to be opened outside of Berks County in the early 1970s, was the company’s fifth location overall. (The company was founded by Solomon Boscov in Reading in 1914.)

“I started out as a part-time cashier and we had this long row of cash registers over by where the steps are now,” said Drum. “(Former president) Albert would come visit us here and would be back behind the registers when we were really busy helping to bag merchandise.”

She also remembers the store’s expansion in the late 1980s, when the old Acme store closed near the east end of the mall, the wall was removed, and the two structures were joined into one. The connector section was built approximately where the cosmetic and adjacent men’s wear departments are currently located.

Following register duty, Drum spent time in the cash office, customer service and fragrance departments. One day she was called to the office and the store manager made her a proposition: a transfer into the beauty department since Clinique was planning to open operations within the department store.

“My response was, ‘I don’t think I want to do that,’” Drum recalled. “I was happy, I was settled in and that’s a lot of work. And then there was the education. Several times I thought about jumping ship (after she started with Clinique) but then the numbers started going up.”

Drum added that she changed her mind about working in the beauty department because of the offer of a nice raise, a guaranteed 40-hour work week, and other incentives.

Deb Drum poses for a picture with another Boscov’s cosmetics consultant. (Provided photo)

Moving to that department made her, in some ways, a store ambassador given that the beauty department is located in “the sweet spot” of the store. It is the first department encountered upon entering the store, meaning her department is in a high-profile location.

“First impressions mean a lot and so I’ve always greeted guests with a smile, which starts the whole process and helps you establish relationships with the customer,” she said.

Her outgoing personality has not gone unnoticed. She told a story of a woman who was never her client, but who wanted to recognize her kindness and generosity by giving Drum a gift card. Then there are the store regulars who also don’t shop cosmetics but who have come to know her friendly smile after nearly five decades.

“People I don’t know who were never my customers have walked by the counter and ask how long I have been here, so I tell them to guess,” said Drum. “No one has ever guessed more than 30 years, so their guesses are never right.”

Word of Drum’s impending departure has spread among her customers. Three times during an interview with LebTown, guests stopped by to say goodbye and to make one last purchase from her, including Sue Arnold, a former co-worker, friend and Clinique user.

“She is one of the most caring employees this store has ever known,” said Arnold. “She always goes out of her way to ensure you have the best customer experience.”

Another client named Carol paid a visit, which elicits a bit of emotion from Drum after farewells are exchanged. “That’s been the toughest part of my job this past month,” says Drum. “It’s been hard, very hard to say goodbye.”

Earlier in the morning before the store opened, Drum was surprised during the team meeting with a visit from Boscov’s president and CEO Jim Boscov. During his presentation, Boscov gave her a gift as a token of the company’s appreciation for her many years of service. Drum said while the gift was appreciated, it was his visit that means the world to her.

In addition to highlighting recent store performance, Boscov spoke of longevity and employee loyalty and its relationship to company culture. When he asked who had been here for 5 years, 10 years, etc., he kept going until he reached 47. It was then that Drum realized that this visit was different, it was meant to honor her and celebrate her career.

“We are here to celebrate your success,” said Boscov. “You are the model that we all aspire to be. I wish you all the best, good health and the chance to do all the things you want to do.”

Those “things” include spending more time with her husband, David Drum, and two daughters, Joclyn Podjed and Hillary Herman, as well as volunteering with the local Rails to Trails organization.

An outdoor enthusiast, Deb said she and husband will bike more often and do other recreational activities together. An avid runner of seven to eight miles three times a week, Deb plans to train for a half-marathon. (She has participated in two Marine-sponsored marathons and has won trophies over the many years she actively participated in running events.)

“I love the longevity and discipline of running as well as the personal challenge — I never get tired of it,” said Drum.

A reason she’s loved her job and stayed in it for so many years is the discipline it provides her. Since COVID, her duties have expanded to include manning the fragrance counters as well as her work as a Clinique consultant.

“I can walk nine miles a day, going here and there and all over the store,” said Drum. “The best work days are when we are busy.”

While her customers and non-clients will surely miss her friendly smile and helpful demeanor, there is a slight possibility that she might one day return to the store and her work family on an as-needed basis. (During his presentation, Boscov jokingly said the reason he came to the store was to talk her out of retirement.)

“It won’t be the rest of this year, but maybe next year if one of the girls is on vacation and they need someone to fill in, I may come back,” said Drum. “That’s not a promise, but we’ll see, we’ll see.”

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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...


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