When I was growing up, my mom and I would go shopping at the mall. A lot.
Or buy a Polo shirt if you could swing the price.
So I must admit that I’m a bit teary that Belk is positioning itself for purchase. After all these years, this Charlotte-based, family-owned business is poised to dissolve its Southern roots. A private equity firm out of New York is sniffing around.
Even if you’re more a Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus department store fan, here are 6 surprising facts about Belk that should make you at least appreciate them:
(1) All in the family: Belk is the largest family-owned department store chain in the U.S. with 297 stores. It’s now in its third generation of Belk family ownership.
William Henry Belk opened the first store (called New York Racket) in 1888 in Monroe. He was a colorful guy who wrote his own newspaper ads and used the slogan “Cheap Goods Sell Themselves.”
(2) Movers and shakers: John Belk was Charlotte’s mayor from 1968-77. Yes, the same John Belk that the loop around uptown is named after. You’ll also find the Belk name on the annual college football bowl played at Bank of America Stadium and on UNCC’s business school.
(3) Star struck: Belk hired the Season 12 winner of Project Runway, Dom Streater, to design a line exclusively for the department store chain. It also agreed to carry local reality star Emily Maynard’s line of jewelry. And of course, Cam Newton hawks his own line there.
— Megan Ann Wilson (@shegotgame) March 18, 2015
(4) Big eats: The SouthPark Belk once had Barclay’s Cafeteria on the third floor and it was extremely popular with older Charlotteans. The store shuttered it in 2000.
(5) Belkie Bear: Every Christmas, Belk releases a new version of the Belkie Bear, a stuffed animal. I guess folks collect them (if you want to start, there’s a bunch on eBay). A mascot version has turned up at the above-mentioned Belk Bowl. Its fans even started a (now outdated) Facebook page.
(6) All for You!: This was Belk’s slogan from 1967 to 2010. This was its logo for decades. That’s commitment. In 2010, the chain updated, with the new logo Modern. Southern. Style.