Southern staple celebrates 125 years - St. Clair News-Aegis: News

Southern staple celebrates 125 years

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 3:06 pm

Creating 125 years of modern Southern style, Belk team members and community leaders started the week off right with a Monday morning breakfast to celebrate decades of fashion forward achievements.

Johnny Belk, Chief Operating Officer and third generation of Belks to partake in the family business was on hand for the festivities as well as Jan Clevenger, Chair of the Western Division for Belk.

“This is our twelfth quarter of store growth,” said Belk.

“We’re excited about growing and look forward to continuing to be a fashion authority where our customers know they can count on Belk first.”

Started by Johnny’s grandfather, William Henry Belk, in 1888 in Monroe, NC, Belk is the largest independently owned store.

The store’s official birthday isn’t until May 29, but the company was so excited, they decided to start the party a little early.

Of course Belk hasn’t forgotten who’s gotten them to this point—loyal customers and great store teams.

“We have associates who connect with the customers,” said Belk.

Honoring these hardworking associates, Belk stores will host 125 days of recognition where employees have the opportunity to win door prizes.

Customers will have a similar experience with 125 Days of Prizes, seen at, where they can register to win trips and merchandise.

What keeps Belk at the forefront of fashion is their vision that growth and change is constantly moving forward and how they view their customers as guests and Belk is a place where guests are always welcome.

Operating on a set of core values, Belk strives to “be relentless with customer care, be encouraging of growth and change, be proud of our rich heritage, be committed to the success of our associates, be the best at what we do and be involved in our communities.”

Eager to talk about giving back, Clevenger shared the many ways area non-profits speak to the Belk way of life.

“YWCA has a special place in my team’s heart,” said Clevenger. “We donate to My Sister’s Closet and participate in Purse & Passion in St. Clair County.”

Providing private shopping events as fundraisers for Breast Cancer Foundation of Alabama, uniting with United Way and participating in the fashion show for Go Red, Belk sets out to show how much they care about their communities, by giving back.

“Jan is on the YWCA Central Alabama Board of Directors and Johnny’s aunt, Sarah Belk Gambrell, is on the National YWCA Board,” said YWCA Central Alabama CEO Suzanne Durham who also attended Belk’s 125 Anniversary breakfast hosted by Panorama Public Relations. “She is remarkable.”

Durham says Clevenger continues the great Belk leadership commitment of giving back by serving as a presenting sponsor for YWCA’s downtown Birmingham’s Purse & Passion luncheon as well as being a fabulous door prize sponsor for St. Clair County’s Purse & Passion event.

“They also serve as personal shoppers and style our courageous women sharing their stories at these events,” said Durham. “They get who we serve. Belk walks the walk in their values.”

Honored to be recognized for something the company holds in such high regard, Belk agreed with a humble reply.

“When you stick to your values longevity is easy,” he said.

“Community is such as big part of who we are,” said Clevenger. “We’ll be implementing the Points of Life campaign where we embrace an at risk school where associates will take time to read at these schools. 23,000 associates will be making a dramatic impact.”

Maximizing their guests’ shopping experience, Belk stores across the board will be upgrading to Wi-Fi access in order to be compatible with shoppers’ smart phones.

“We’re investing $100 million to rebrand 47 stores,” Belk said. “Our internet business is tremendous. It goes both ways. It’s an exciting time where we always want to uphold our standard of service excellence.”

Defining what modern Southern style really means, Belk said new lines such as Cynthia Rowley and Cam by Cam Newton will hit floors soon (if they haven’t already).

“We know how Alabama fans feel about Cam down here, but we feel differently about him as a Carolina Panther,” he said jokingly.

Embarking on a new journey to help develop Southern designers’ talents Belk is featuring several emerging designers throughout its store at The Summit off 280 in Birmingham, AL.

Representing the Birmingham area is children’s wear designer Andrea Brown who lives in Homewood.

Dedicated to seeing their vision “for the modern Southern woman to count on Belk first for her, for her family and for life,” Belk looks forward to carrying on its timeless tradition for the next 125 years of being the destination where Southern style lives.