Belk Department stores through the years

Feb. 28, 2013 @ 07:16 AM

Belk started as one department store in a brick building in Monroe. 

It was founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk and is still a family business, being led by his grandchildren.

The store was originally called the New York Racket. Sales were strictly cash, prices were marked, there was no haggling and customers could return good. These practices were considered unique for the time.

Work shirts and undershirts were 10 cents, while a pre-made suit ran for $5. Customers could also purchase paper, soap, pencils, envelopes, fishing lines, matches, fish hooks and other necessities.  

Five years later, William Henry Belk's brother joined him and they expanded into Chester, S.C. 

The company's fourth store was in Charlotte, it became their flagship store and headquarters and opened in 1895. Today, the SouthPark Mall location is the flagship. 

At their 50th anniversary, the founder William Henry Belk attributed their success to their rules of "honesty, friendliness and treating all customers with consideration." 

In 1967, the store adopted their big B logo. The stores began to modernize in the 1970's, replacing conventional cash registers with electronic terminals and selling new product lines. 

By the company's 100th anniversary in 1988, they operated 350 stores in 16 states.

Today, the store has 301 locations in 16 states. They employ 23,000 people and made $3.78 billion in the 2012 fiscal year. The company is on track to become a $6 billion company in the next five years. 

A manager at their 125th birthday kick-off said that while they want to celebrate their heritage, they do not want to focus on their age. 

In 2010, Belk launched a new corporate identity touting "Modern.Southern.Style" and a new logo. 

Today, the company is run by Chief Executive Officer Tim Belk and President and Chief Operating Officer Johnny Belk–the grandchildren of founder William Henry Belk and children of John M. Belk, who served as Chariman and CEO until 2004.