By MYRA THRIFT, Staff Writer
People started lining up at the Belk store at The Mall at Waycross at 6 a.m. Friday to be first through the doors of the renovated shop and hopefully get their hands on a gift card to use inside the store.
Nearly 100 were in line by the time a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 o’clock was enjoyed (hosted by the Waycross-Ware County Chamber of Commerce), and store manager Desiree Meyers welcomed the crowd, then handed out gift cards to the excited shoppers.
Belk has been completely renovated with new tile, new carpet, new lighting and totally refurbished bathrooms and fitting rooms.
Before the ribbon was cut by Meyers, the presentation of a $1,000 Belk donation to Magnolia House Shelter for Abused Persons was made, then the doors were opened and the public flooded in to see the improvements and find the “on sale” merchandise.
At the rear of the store, the company had set up a breakfast buffet with lots of fruits and other foods for employees and members of the local chamber of commerce and elected officials to enjoy.
Tyler Hampton, public relations manager for Belk Inc., was on hand for the event, as was Bill Rentz, who oversaw the renovations.
“We want the people of Waycross to know this is their store. We’ve been here a long time and we are here to stay,” said Hampton.
Meyers welcomed the officials to the store and thanked the employees for their loyalty.
“We just finished a seven-week refurbishment of the building, which is about 40 years old,” said Meyers. “We have new fitting rooms, new carpeting, new merchandise look. Waycross has been great to support the Belk store and this is one way we can repay them. This store is better, newer, cleaner and will provide a more positive shopping experience.”
Rentz expressed his appreciation to the associates for a great job.
“What a transformation,” Rentz said. “I’ve built 10 new stores and this one rivals them. It is almost a brand new building.”
Said Meyers, “We are really excited about the remodeling for the local people. We appreciate our customers and their loyalty to the Belk store. We have high hopes that the new look will enhance their shopping experience.”
Meyers pointed out that customers may also register for giveaways that will take place in the coming days.
Customers who waited in line for the store to open were excited. One man and woman said they had been there since 6 a.m. Others arrived at 7 a.m.
“We wanted to get here so we could get a gift card and help our daughter get some school clothes for her children,” said a woman in line.
Likewise, four small children were in line with their parents, waiting to enter and peruse the new children’s clothing section.
Special sales are taking place all over the store with several 75 percent off racks filled to capacity and shoe shelves brimming with various colors and styles of footwear.
Inside the store, glistening new counters show off cosmetics and fragrances for sampling, and sparkling china and crystal are displayed on racks with colors and patterns in order.
Clothing racks hold stylish new garments in a range of sizes to fit babies, children, teens, young women, plus-size ladies, men and boys.
Colorful comforters, sheets, towels and kitchen appliances are all available in the housewares section.
Larry Gattis, recently retired as the interim chamber of commerce director here, pointed out that on Aug. 26, 1986, Belk opened its 60,230-square-foot location in what was then known as Hatcher Point Mall, with 75 employees.
The building permit was issued for $1,975,000.
Construction funds were coordinated by the Waycross-Ware County Development Authority with a low interest loan from three local banks — Southern Bank, Commercial Bank and Trust Company Bank of Southeast Georgia.
Mrs. Odessa Thompson won the grand opening grand prize that year, a super cruise for two to the Bahamas.
Belk’s motto “Modern. Southern. Style.” certainly rings true through the new appointments and stylish displays.