Belk’s Rooted in Monroe

Cars in front a Belk store in the 1930s in Brevard. Image from the Transylvania County Public LibraryOn May 29, 1888, the first Belk department store opened under the name the “New York Racket” in Monroe. The store was founded by William Henry Belk, only 25 at the time. Belk used all $750 of his personal life savings, a $500 loan and $3,000 in consigned merchandise to launch the operation.

The store stayed in business largely because of Belk’s innovative sales techniques. He insisted that prices be clearly labeled and that no haggling or credit be allowed. The store opened early and closed late to accommodate working-class customers and consistently relied on slim margins with a high sales volume.

After a few years of success, Belk convinced his brother John to join the business as a partner. When he came onboard, they renamed the store Belk Brothers. As the success of the business grew, so did its footprint. New locations opened across the Charlotte region in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of which were partnerships between the Belk brothers and trusted former employees.

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