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Belk celebrates 125 years in business
Local store going strong since 1930
Belk celebrated its 125th anniversary on Wednesday, with events at more than 300 locations, including Martinsville. When the store opened in Martinsville in 1930, it was Leggett on Walnut Street. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray, photo above from the Martinsville Henry County Historical Museum)
The Martinsville Belk store celebrated the company’s 125th anniversary Wednesday by honoring longtime employees, rewarding customers with gift cards, refreshments and entertainment.
Suzanne McInturff, manager of the local store, said she was “very pleased” with the estimated 150 people who gathered at the Liberty Fair Mall store to celebrate, along with countless other people at Belk stores in more than 300 other southern areas.
Speakers, including Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins, generally said it is important “to support the local Belk store,” McInturff said.
William Henry Belk opened his first store in Monroe, N.C., on May 29, 1888.
Locally, the first Belk store opened in 1930 in a 7,000-square-foot space on Walnut Street, McInturff said. The store was known as Leggett at that time.
By 1937-38, Leggett had relocated to a storefront on Church Street, near Fagg’s Drug Store, said Carl deHart, who along with Desmond Kendrick operates the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Museum.
William Clark was listed as the store manager in a business directory at that time, de Hart said. Clark held that position for many years, including through World War II, according to subsequent editions of the directory.
The store moved to Liberty Fair Mall, where it opened in 1989, and it continues to be an anchor business there. It sells men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, housewares, linens, gifts, cosmetics and other items.
Lois Stanley’s career with the company began when she started working in the Collinsville Leggett store.
During her tenure, “I’ve seen it (business) go from bad to good, bad to good, and right now, I think it’s coming back to good again,” she said.
Stanley has worked at the cosmetic counter in Leggett/Belk for 28 years, she said. For the 19 years before that, Stanley said she was a stay-at-home mother who also did some babysitting.
Besides “keeping children and doing housekeeping,” she said she did not know she could do any other type of work. She applied for a job “on a dare,” she said.
Her career has been “mostly all good,” Stanley said. Belk “is great to work for. The people are great, and customer service is the name of the game.”
It also is something that she has excelled at, often winning contests and prizes such as cruises, Stanley said. Once, she even won a new Mazda convertible, she added.
Still, every day is different, according to Stanley, who equates a typical day with a line from the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.”
“Every morning when the doors open, it’s like a box of chocolates,” she said, smiling. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
Stanley and Jennifer Solomon, who has worked at Belk for 26 years, were honored Wednesday with certificates and trophies for their service.
Solomon, of Ridgeway, said she also began her career with the company at the Leggett store in Collinsville, working part-time.
“I started out vacuuming floors,” she recalled, laughing. She then moved up to working on displays, and from there, she became a manager in receiving — a post she has held for the last 15 years.
She attributes her longevity to “the people. I really enjoy the people. I get along with everybody. We’re family,” Solomon said. “We help one another. This is a good place to work.”
Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar and City Council member Danny Turner were among the other local officials who attended the event that also featured entertainment and refreshments.