Monday, August 13, 2007

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

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. Exterior entrance, August 7, 2007. (roadgeek89)

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

Previously on LiveMalls
Belk, Independence Mall, Wilmington, North Carolina


  1. I would think that store and that mural looked really cool if I didn't HATE Belk so much right now.

  2. Good design is good design, regardless of the source.

  3. Yeah, I just shudder when I see that stupid "B." I dealt with it when they ruined my hometown store, Proffitt's, but now they've destroyed the wonderful men's store at Parisian and replaced it with a bunch of cheap Belk crap. Buh-bye Joseph Abboud, hello Van Heusen. Makes me sick.

  4. Hey, Belk is still better than Macy's.

  5. At least Macy's stocks SOME decent merchandise, despite their horrible shortcomings from a management standpoint. Belk, not so much.

  6. Can we talk about this store for a moment?

    This store reminds me a lot of the Oglethorpe Mall store (which was a Belk Beery originally as well), but it's a more refined version. Belk Oglethorpe Mall doesn't have the murals, and has a skylight over its escalator well instead of a lighted ceiling, but it's a very similar feel

    The escalator well also reminds me of the Bristol Mall store as well. Belk went through a glass elevator phase in the late '70s. It was brief but stunning.

    This is a store I've never been in, so I wonder if the escalator well still looks the same these days.


    Brian: I agree with you on the issue of downgraded merchandise. A lot of people have said similar things about Belk conversions. Unfortunately, even though I'm not going to be a Belk apologist, I'm not going to trash them either.

    First of all, Belk stores don't carry Joseph Abboud. They tried it at most of their top locations, but it was a notoriously poor seller, even at Belk SouthPark. The styling never resonated with Belk shoppers. So unless your local Belk was doing stellar business with Abboud, they're weren't going to keep it.

    In Men's Sportswear, Belk typically stocks Polo, Nautica, Tommy Bahama, Hilfiger, Lacoste, Perry Ellis, and Claiborne. They pretty much stick to the typical preppy sportswear, but then again, so do Dillard's, Macy's and Bon-Ton.

    A lot of the top stores have Greg Norman, Vineyard Vines and Filson in sportswear, and are getting some better lines in Young Men's and Men's Clothing and Furnishings, but popular price sportswear hasn't changed much in years.

    Not for lack of trying though. Over the past several years, Belk has tried over and over to move sportswear upmarket, but it doesn't work at an economy of scale profitable enough to justify it in enough doors.

    Rather than taking my word for it, talk to your local Belk store manager about your concerns. Even though they're pretty uniform, Belk is not above doing something different if it catches on.

    Josh: I was just in Macy's today and I have to agree with you. They have a lot of crappy clothes. I left even less inspired than when I came in. That's a bad sign.

  7. The fixtures and presentation of the handbag department look very modern. It could almost...almost pass for Saks Fifth Avenue.

  8. I think Belk probably got the glass elevator phase from Ivey's, who put them in most of their Florida stores, which have lived on as Dillard's kept them. Notable examples are in Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach, Orange Park Mall outside Jacksonville (which is STILL a 1980's time capsule, despite it being a relatively upscale mall), and Merritt Square Mall in Cocoa Beach.

    As I said earlier, this is a beautiful store. Belk certainly went thru a mural phase in their history. Their store at Colonial Mall Myrtle Beach has a mural on one of the exterior entrances of the women's store. There used to be one at the mall in Valdosta, GA (a former Belk Hudson), but it was demolished when the store was expanded to add a home store.

    As far as Belk and Abboud, I relied on the Abboud section at Parisian to outfit me for my law practice. While Belk claims they are keeping Abboud and Forsyth of Canada (another of my favorites) in my converted Parisian (which is being made into Belk Men's Children's, and Home, while women's will remain in the former Proffitt's that was Belkified last year), the cirrent selection is telling a different story, with only Abboud dress shirts in the current selection. The Parisian suit department here did a huge amount of volume in Abboud suits and in Hart Schaffner Gold Trumpeter, neither of which Belk is carrying. They carry the basic collections from HSM, Austin Reed, and Lauren.

    The merchandise that Belk carries works for them, I suppose. Their ability to acquire chains shows that it's been profitable for them. Still, for those of us that made the bulk of our purchases at Parisian, they've told us that our business is important to them, but followed thru in a totally different way. Yes, they still carry Polo, Hilfiger, etc., but I can get that everywhere. What they're missing is the entire segment of us that is more concerned about where we purchase suits and shirts and ties for our work wardrobe. I appreciate the fact that they have catered to me the upscale shopper by doubling the size of the Polo department and keeping the golfwear section. But in my evaluation of Belk/Parisian, I can't ignore that I now will look elsewhere to purchase clothing for work.

    Thankfully, our Dillard's stocks HSM Gold Trumpeter suits and a local store across from the mall sells the entire line of Abboud clothing, from suits to ties, to even casual.

  9. You’re probably right about Belk borrowing a little from Ivey’s regarding the glass elevators. I haven’t been to any of the old Ivey’s Florida stores, but I know Ivey’s Carolinas had a few stores with glass elevators in the center, notably the late, great Carolina Circle store in Greensboro, which had one of the best escalator wells of its era before its untimely demise. We’re talking massive a massive skylight, tropical plants, a tinted-glass elevator with marquee lights and orange metal accents, and glass escalators with orange handrails!

    Some of the best ideas Belk had from a store design standpoint were borrowed from other retailers. Belk SothPark’s renovation in 1986 borrowed heavily from Nordstrom, the men’s department remodels of the late 1990s matched up perfectly to what Lord & Taylor was doing at the time, and so on. There is a distinct Belk style that arose from this, but it would be wrong to say that it was all their ideas all along.

    This store in Wilmington is a great example of Belk’s first great period of suburban store design that lasted from about 1970 to 1980. The distinctive tripartite entrances and massive escalator wells, along with the ubiquitous pole lamps said ‘Belk’ as much as anything they sold. The Belk look was so pervasive, even Macy’s borrowed a bit from Belk on the exterior of their store at Augusta Mall, among others.

    By the way, if you have any pictures of these or any other stores, drop me a line :-)

    I apologize for making the assumption that you were talking about sportswear earlier. As Belk is usually able to push the upmarket merchandise in Men’s Clothing & Furnishings pretty well, I don’t know why the Knoxville stores (West Town, right?) wouldn’t continue to carry Abboud or Gold Trumpeter if they were doing well. It could be a case like what happened at Macy’s State Street in Chicago: when the Field’s name left, so did Prada, Armani and Jimmy Choo. None of it was based on the company’s willingness to sell the item, but rather the vendor’s apprehension about being linked to the wrong retailer.

    I hate to agree on this, but you may have to seek alternatives to Belk for the clothes you want. I’ve had to on many occasions. For me, it’s a matter of finding clothes that fit my tall frame. While Belk does carry Big & Tall, in all but a handful of stores, the selection is akin to a JCPenney. Dillard’s, on the other hand, tends to carry some really nice pieces at each location and it’s easier for me to find something I actually want to buy.

    For my issue though, it’s not as much that Belk is necessarily worse than the competition, but rather only slightly above it. Almost nobody carries big & tall clothes in-store, and most places are truly awful when it comes to selection. Half an effort is better than none at all in this case.

    I think you should email Belk about your issues and also talk to your local store manager. They need to know this information from somebody who shops at these stores.

  10. While we are talking about Belk--John Belk RIP--he passed away this past Friday--the end of an era.

  11. Nitek: A positive word about Belk? Am I dreaming? :-)

  12. I'm starting to warm up to Belk after their acquisition of Parisian. Sure, the chain has some odd attributes (peculiar store locations, web site, but it's far from being a horrible chain, from what I have seen after secondary visits and consideration.

  13. Brian is a major league whiner...

    I see one of those stores had a clinqiue sale. Our belk in Franklin just has ... Fashion Fair left.

  14. I guess the other cosmetics lines just weren't selling? Peculiar.

  15. Although I really can't comment on Belk(as I'm not familiar with that chain, BUT did notice the last time I was in Atlanta, that the ex-Parisian stores had converted into Belk stores), I've kept meaning to check Macy's out, since the former Marshall Field's stores were converted to Macy's just barely over a year ago.

    Never mind that traditionally, I've only spent very limited time in the other sections of their stores, other than in their Frango + chocolate department! :) It'll still be interesting though to see how much change(or little change) they've done to the rest of the store(particularly the State Street one), whenever I get around to doing this.

  16. If life lasts, I'm going to go to Chicago next year and see if the State Street store has held up during Macy-fication.

  17. I agree with Brian about this being a beautiful store. Having the elevator in the middle is a heck of a lot more convenient too. A couple of Searses and a JC Penney in the Triangle have adopted such a design, though the JC Penney doesn't have glass.

  18. Another good place to have an elevator is near an entrance. Several Belk stores I've been to have had them facing their main exterior entrances, and a couple of Sears stores I've seen have had them by the mall entrance.

  19. Really? Haven't seen that. Can you name some examples?

  20. The Belk stores at Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro and Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem have the exterior-facing elevators. The Sears at Hanes Mall has an elevator at the mall entrance, as did the former Sears at SouthPark in Charlotte and possibly the Sears at Northgate at Durham.

  21. Oh yeah, I remember now. The Belk at Columbiana Centre (sp?) in Columbia, SC, has elevators at both ends, while the old Sears at Crabtree had one at the mall entrance. I couldn't reach the buttons on that one.

  22. No wonder. You were probably pretty young back when the old Crabtree Sears store was open. It's been gone for nearly 15 years.

  23. I concur wholeheartedly. Belk is an AWFUL store. I wanted to cry when they took over Parisian. Even Belk's supposed "flagship" store at SouthPark in Charlotte has downgraded merchandise in recent years.

    Not sure what is wrong with Belk's buyers, but they need to GO! Must every mall in SC & NC have a cruddy Belk store filled with Andhurst, Saddlebred and other cheap junk? Some retailer please come into this market and save us all!!!!

    Thank goodness Charlotteans at least have Nordstrom now. Maybe there is hope for the rest of us outside of Charlotte.

  24. I'd appreciate it if your slander of Belk came with a name attached. Anonymous comments are largely ignored here unless you have something substantive to say.

  25. Nordstrom vs. Belk, the comparison is similar, only Belk is much more affordable. With the USA on the brink of a recession, more people with shop at Belk stores anyway. We need to buy clothing made in America. Most of the clothing sold at Belk is made in other parts of the world. Hello - wake up America. 80,000 jobs were lost in the USA in March 2008. Wake up America!