Monday, November 06, 2006

Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina - UPDATED

Belk Beery, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Exterior entrance, circa 1979. (Gordon Schenck)

Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Exterior entrance, August 7, 2007. (roadgeek89)

Belk-Beery, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Exterior entrance, July 1979. (Pat Richardson)

Frequent LiveMalls contributor Patrick Richardson went to the Independence Mall (Westfield Independence) in Wilmington, North Carolina, and took these great pictures (as noted) of the Belk store there. His comments are in italics below.

UPDATE - 8/13/07 - LiveMalls contributor Billy (roadgeek89) recently shot some additional photos of this same Belk store on his beach trip. I have included them here, as noted.

Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Exterior entrance details, 11/2/06. (Pat Richardson)
Each set of doors into Belk feature a "balcony" that features three different murals that depict scenes that represent Wilmington (each set of doors has three murals unique to that entrance--there are nine paintings altogether)
Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Exterior lighting, 11/2/06. (Pat Richardson)
Exterior lights outside of Belk---most older Belks have these -- usually with a light or two that is burned out
Belk-Beery, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Escalator well, July 1979. (Pat Richardson)
These pictures of Belk-Beery, Independence Mall, were taken the week before the store opened in July 1979. The escalator well featured a glass-sided elevator -- framed by antique brick, marble, and wrought iron -- in the style of the antebellum houses in Wilmington.
Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Mall entrance, 11/2/06. (Pat Richardson)

Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Mall entrance, August 7, 2007. (roadgeek89)

Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina. Mall entrance with holiday display, 11/2/06. (Pat Richardson)

Thanks to Patrick and roadgeek89 for these great contributions.


  1. Wow...what an interesting store!

    Actually, the first thing that caught my eye was the Belk-Beery sign. I thought I had read in the Belk book that the Savannah store was the first to receive the "new" Belk alphabet sign in...1969?...and that it was also the first store to *not* have the "partner's" name next to it. I'll have to snoop around's been so long since I read that book, I know I've probably got it wrong.

    Pat -- awesome pics! Many thanks, and I hope to see much more from you!


  2. You're on the right track, Matt. Belk at Oglethorpe Mall was the first large mall store Belk built back in 1969, and it was signed as Belk instead of Belk-Beery.

    That didn't mean the end of Belk-Beery signs though. From what I can tell, the only stores that got signs that read just Belk at first were Charlotte, Fayetteville, Savannah, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, usually when their store companies got mall locations.

    Back on topic, this is one of the better-designed Belk locations of its era. All the signature elemnts are there, but it's distinctive in its own right.

  3. Thank you, Steven, for the info.

    Looking at these photos yet again, I cringe when I see the burnt out lights in the "Belk" interior sign, of all places. Seriously, the lights outside I can almost overlook, but your own sign inside the mall is pretty...embarrassing!

    Those "frescoes," though, are quite intriguing...If I ever make it over to the coast, this mall is definitely one of my stops!

  4. There sure are a lot of burnt-ou blubs at this store. I was talking to someone this morning about how Belk has some of the prettiest stores in the industry, but seems to drop the ball on routine maintenance. Belk SouthPark tends to be the exception to this.

  5. Deferred maintenance is the first sign something is wrong (financially). It's like when the office goes from Grade A two-ply toilet paper to Grade C East German single-ply. Layoffs come next. Burned out light bulbs drive me nuts! I worked at a furniture store that had hundreds of burnt out bulbs. I think it took me a week to replace ones that hadn't been on since the Seventies. Then, I had to wait for three light-bulb replenishments to arrive before finishing off the store. It's an endless job!!! They just kept burning out!! Oh, the store went bankrupt and closed for good, too (see, deferred maintenance!!!)
    Other subject... How does a store that has so many business names work? I mean, do they issue a different credit card for each business name? Bags and other signage? Seems expensive.

  6. You're right asbout burned out lights being a signal of something deeper, but I think how it worked for Belk was that they ended up planning higher-maintenence stores than they seemed at first.

    As they remodel the old stores, they've simplified their designs, with more common elemnts and bulb sizes, so that they can choose from a kit of maintennece parts rather than a custom solution for each store.

    Belk was able to pull off all those business names by making all the in-store signage, bags, credit cards and price tags either Belk or Leggett. The extra names usually were in the exterior signs and newspaper ads.

  7. My dad, Bill Killian, was a large part of hiring the artist, Sam Bissett, to do the watercolors that then became the tile mosaics for each of the arches. I remember him being so excited, he was very low key, about this store having such a connection to the community in which he, and Bill Beery lived and raised their families. How exciting to see this so many years later.

  8. My Dad, Bill Melvin, was the supervising contractor for this tile installation project. Since NHRMC covered up the classic marble he installed and the mall replaced the interior flooring, it's rare to spot the projects he worked on. The murals are still beautiful.