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Belk sneak peek impresses crowd while helping United Way

SALISBURY — About 500 guests enjoyed a sneak peek Sunday night inside the new Belk at Wallace Commons and gave the department store high marks for better brand selection, organization and decor.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Shayla LeDoux said. “It’s really nice and spacious.”

The 74,000-square-foot store was rocking and rolling during the private event that benefited the Rowan County United Way, featuring a DJ and catering by L.A. Murph’s Fine Cooking. Belk gave the United Way 500 tickets, which sold out at $5 each, and will donate $5,000 to the charity at the official ribbon cutting ceremony this week.

Belk opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, marking a new chapter in retail for Rowan County and the possible demise of the Salisbury Mall, which lost both Belk and J.C.Penney this year, as well as numerous other stores. The New York owner who bought the troubled mall after a foreclosure has the property back up for sale.

Ulta Beauty and Michaels Crafts — two of Belk’s new neighbors in the expanded shopping center at Interstate 85 exit 74 — are already open, and Shoe Carnival is set to open later this month. A mattress store and urgent care near Belk on Klumac Road are under construction.

Belk Manager Lynda Lefler, who brought her entire staff with her from the mall to Wallace Commons, said she doubled her workforce in the new location. Retail in Rowan County will see a big boost from the new Belk, Lefler predicted.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous impact,” she said. “We are very encouraged for a very strong holiday season. Salisbury has a very loyal base here for us.”

The new Belk offers more brands than the store carried at the mall, including Polo, Nautica, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein. Customers also noticed the larger shoe and purse departments.

“I love it, especially the handbags,” Kizzy Watson said. “It’s going to get me in trouble.”

Young shoppers seemed especially impressed with Salisbury’s new Belk, which is the first store in the Southeast to display the company’s sleek new exterior.

Salisbury sisters and twenty-somethings Jodie and Jackie Franzil said while they will continue to travel to SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, they now also will shop at Belk, something they never used to do.

“They have all the brands we’re looking for,” Jodie said. “And it will be more convenient.”

Teenager Olivia Wilsey no longer considers Belk an old lady store.

“I love it,” she said, who won a $100 gift card as a door prize. “They have more clothes for juniors and more variety.”

While shoppers were loading up on purchases, United Way officials said they were thrilled that Belk made it possible for the charity to capitalize on the event. The United Way kept the proceeds from all ticket sales.

“Folks are flocking in here, and that money stays in Rowan County,” said Dr. Jim Duncan, chairman of the Rowan County United Way campaign.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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