“We were the first ones here,” Jean Steele said.
The senior couple said they like to support Belk. In fact, they have done a lot of “supporting” over the years, Hubert said, winking at his joke.
“Cleveland has one of the nicest Belks around,” he said. “And they restored it like you would an old car — with care.”
Hubert was hoping that one of them would get at least one of the big giveaway Belk card prizes of $500.
“I do love shopping,” Jean said. She also admitted she saw a special ring that struck her fancy in a Belk newspaper insert she might just have her eye on.
“We have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren,” Hubert said in more serious explanation. That giveaway would come in really handy for the upcoming holidays.
But the entire community will benefit with the advantages of the revamped merchant and all its special sales because Belk celebrated its three-month, $1.5 million renovation of its Bradley Square Mall store Wednesday with a grand re-opening. It was just seven years ago that Belk opened its doors for the first time in Cleveland.
A total of $600 million has been invested recently by Belk in company-wide improvements, according to Johnny Belk, president and CEO.
“It’s a big day for Belk and its customers,” said Cliff Howard, event coordinator/operations department.
According to information provided by Belk, over the past several years the store has focused on making its shopping environment more compelling, while delivering new business capabilities for growth and profitability.
The Cleveland store is one of 19 Belk locations across the nation that hosted grand reopening ceremonies Wednesday. Renovations to the local store included new carpeting and tile, new wall sections, increased area capacity, lighting, restrooms, fitting rooms and fixtures, said Phil Brown, store manager.
“The store is opened up and looks larger ... We appreciate you putting up with three months of renovations. You’ve been really nice (about it),” Brown added, addressing the ribbon-cutting audience. He said he has overheard countless customers exclaiming “Wow!”
Brown said he wants the renovated location to be the community’s “hometown store.”
Other local dignitaries also attended the ribbon cutting and reopening.
“The new design will be appreciated by Cleveland shoppers. A more open look. More shopper friendly,” said Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis. “(And) it’s extra special, especially during these tough economic times, for Belk to see fit to invest in upgrading the store here in Cleveland ... It’s another great day in Bradley County and I think you’ll agree when you go through the store.”
The store also has made room for expanded departments, as well as new merchandise in its current 60,000-square-foot modern shopping experience. In addition to more designer handbags and shoes, especially women’s shoes, Belk for the first time now features fine jewelry. And, to help accommodate customer needs, the cosmetic department is now more conveniently located near the main entrance of the store.
The Sound of Tennessee Chorus barbershop quartet serenaded the crowd during the brief opening speeches.
Then, along with the official ribbon cutting, Belk gave away gift cards ranging from $5 to $500 to the first 400 customers, with 200 — men, women, children, teenagers, college students and seniors — waiting in line by the time the doors opened at around 9:30 a.m. And they came in handy, with the storewide sales abundant in every department.
A four-day sale, called Belk Days, is currently tied in with the renovation celebrations through Saturday in Belk stores across the country.
In addition to Belk’s goal of providing modern, southern style to its customers, the Cleveland store has expanded its shoe selection by 35 percent, especially for the ladies.
At every Belk renovation celebration, a $5,000 donation was made to a local charity. The local store presented its oversized check to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland.
“Belk is one of the wonderful retailers in Bradley County,” said Charles Sutton, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs. “They think about giving back ... Bradley County is spiraling up due to companies like Belk, which are the key to the future.”
In addition to the donation, Belk plans to hire more employees which will help with community growth even more.
But, back to the Steeles. Each received the minimum $5 gift card. But that didn’t dampen their spirits. They were last seen checking out all the bargains galore.
Reba Boling, excited and seemingly flabbergasted at her good fortune, said, “I’ve never won anything in my life.”
Boling was one of four Belk customers who won a $500 gift card.
“It was such a shock,” she added. “I buy here all the time.”
But she was going to have to give it some thought, with all the merchandise from which to choose and to all the grandkids and children for whom she has to buy. She said she will take a little time to decide what to purchase with the new-found gift.