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Belk celebrates 125th anniversary

Some 125 years ago, William Henry Belk opened his first store in Monroe, N.C. On Wednesday morning, dozens came out to help Belk celebrate its 125th anniversary in the Hupps Mill Plaza Shopping Center in South Boston. 

The event kicked off with a V.I.P. breakfast for special guests and dignitaries. 

Following the breakfast, Store Manager Shane Markham greeted the crowd waiting outside the store and introduced the Rev. Jack Stewart who gave the invocation for the event.

“Today is the day when, in 1888, William Henry Belk opened his first store in Monroe, N.C. The store here in downtown South Boston originally opened as one of the first Leggett stores back in the late 1920s. The Leggett stores were privately owned but were always assisted in operations by Belk in Charlotte, N.C,” Markham told the crowd.

 The store at Hupps Mill opened in 1986 and became a Belk Store in the mid-1990s, Markham continued.

“Mr. Robert A. Leggett was the first store manager here, and he had a famous quote as he addressed his salespeople prior to opening the South Boston location: ‘The most important thing in the store is to be nice to people, not just sell them merchandise. If you’re nice to people, people will be nice to you. I’m not your boss. The customer is your boss,’” Markham said. “Belk’s tradition of customer service is still rooted in Mr. Leggett’s belief.”

 Markham said Belk Inc. and Belk of South Boston are both very proud of their rich heritage.

“Even though some of the industry that was once here has disappeared, our store continues to be a shopping destination because of its friendly service, convenience and a merchandise selection that otherwise would be available in larger cities,” Markham said.  “But most importantly, it is successful because of you. This is what today’s celebration is all about. It’s our customers and community that allow us to thrive. On behalf of my entire staff, we are here to say thank you.”

Guests were serenaded by a vocal performance by Tammy Jones who sang “God Bless The USA” and Jakob Markham who played the guitar.

Halifax County Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Pool and Halifax Mayor Dick Moore addressed the crowd.

 Pool has been with the chamber for 33 years and she and the chamber have always been huge supporters of Belk, according to Markham.

Pool explained how much Belk means to the community. 

“I hope you all will break out your dollars or credit cards and enjoy what they have to offer in the store. But I want you also to think about shopping in Halifax County. It is so important. I don’t know that folks think about how important it is. It puts in money, and it drives the economy. These folks employ folks. Of the sales tax that we spend, one cent of that sales tax comes back to the community. So we need to remember to shop here and shop Halifax County first. Shane, Belk, his employees are great assets to our community, and we are truly blessed to have a great store, a store that believes in the community, that gives back to the community. And the chamber of commerce is so pleased to count them in our family of businesses. The chamber is successful because of businesses just like them,” Pool said.

 Mayor Moore who also spoke Wednesday morning is a former employee of both Leggett and Belk Stores and worked in the buying office as a merchandise manager. 

As town mayor he has supported public health an safety, promoted non-profit organizations in the community and championed efforts for the revitalization of downtown Halifax, Markham said as he welcomed Moore to the podium.

“We really don’t know how lucky we are in the community to have a store like Belk. Belk is one of the finest retailer operations anywhere in the south. I understand they now have 303 stores,” Moore said.

“Belk and Leggett have always been community-oriented. They always wanted to be part of the community. They encourage the employees to be part of the community. We are so fortunate to have a longtime store here. Look around here. A lot of the major retailers recently have not made it in the retail business. I with Mrs. Pool ask you to please support Halifax County.”

Three employees were recognized for their dedication to Belk during the celebration including Mary Williams, who has worked at Belk for almost 25 years, Kathy Wood, who has worked for Belk almost 30 years, and Betty Davis, who has been employed with Belk 33 years.

Following the festivities, store employees, dressed in blue, waved blue pom poms and cheered ushering the crowd into the store for refreshments, gift cards and shopping.