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Belk's / Dillard's, Columbia Mall: late 2008   31 comments

Posted at 10:21 pm in Uncategorized

Dillard's started out as a Belk's when Columbia Mall opened in the 1970s and was one of the original anchor stores (along with Sears, Penny's and RIch's).

Since I considered Belk's mainly a "clothes store" and I hated shopping for clothes, in the usual course of events, I would not have gone there often. However in one of those odd little bits of department-store whimsey (nut counters, lunch rooms, hair salons..) that were common in pre-mall days and had yet to be abandoned, they had an area on the second floor near the kitchen-ware which was leased out to a local record store. I knew the name of it before I started this post, but I find it has completely escaped me at the moment. At any rate, it was a small area and the selection of regular LPs was not deep by any means, but they frequently had incredible finds for anyone willing to root through the cut-out bins. Being broke and somewhat obsessive, that was me. I know I still have a number of LPs from there, with the standout being a two disc Jan & Dean collection which had all the hits (which were otherwise pretty unavailable at the time) and a number of the tracks cut by Dean after Jan's accident under the names Laughing Gravy (a fun cover of The Beach Boys' "Vegetables") and The Legendary Masked Surfers (the infectious "Sunshine Music"). The liner notes promised that all the tracks were in "quasi-moto monaural" and if you experienced any problems to "take a shower with a friend".

Aside from browsing the record cut-outs (and kitchen gadgets from time to time) my other favorite thing to do in the store was to ride the small capsule-like elevator. This managed to look both futuristic and a bit art-deco at the same time, and allowed you to look out over the whole store as you ascended or fell.

I forget all the details, but at some point in the late 70s or 80s, Belk left the Columbia market for a while. I think it might have been a family inheritance struggle over management of the chain, but it's very fuzzy. At any rate, after the store space closed as a Belks, it reopened as a Dillards.

I can't say very much about Dillards -- it had no music section so I think I only went in there a few times and found nothing that struck my fancy. I'm pretty sure I never purchased an item there. The chain has been hurting in recent years, and though I don't find any news suggesting the chain itself is in danger, they have been closing underperforming stores, one of which was apparently the Columbia Mall store.

I recall a story in The State mentioning the (then) upcoming closing and interviewing the mall owners who allowed that you (approx) "seldom had the opportunity to replace two anchor stores" (Steve & Barry is also leaving). I was reminded of the old Pogo quote:

We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities!

I took these pictures in October. I would have taken more, but one of the floorwalkers politely inquired as to what I was doing, and it always sounds pretty lame when I try to explain it. Jan & Dean in "Submarine Races" mode would have been much more persuasive!

UPDATE 1 March 2010: The place still has not been touched since the closing. I half expected them to wall over the entrances:

Written by ted on January 7th, 2009

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31 Responses to 'Belk's / Dillard's, Columbia Mall: late 2008'

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  1. Belk closed in 95. I got a suit there just before they closed. They returned to Columbia whenever Whites closed which I think was around 2000.

    Mr Bill

    8 Jan 09 at 12:10 pm

  2. Mr Bill -- you mean the downtown Columbia Belk closed in '95, right?

    I went there after all the merchandise was gone and they were selling the fixtures, and I came home with a mannequin in beautiful shape. I didn't know what I was looking for, I just wanted some sort of memento of the store. I had shopped there my entire life.

    It was a very surreal scene -- all of the store's mannequins were taken apart and the parts stacked into huge piles right on the main floor inside the Main St. doors. So here's a pile, way higher than your head, or right arms, and another of left arms, and another of heads, etc. I wish so much I had some photos of it.

    We were free to pick through the parts and build a complete figure for $35. It was disappointing because they were very banged up. In the corner was one all assembled that looked brand new, with a great looking wig. Turned out it had just come back from the factory from being repaired and repainted. I asked how much THAT one was, and the guy shrugged and said no one told him any different so he guessed it was $35.

    I keep it in my office where it scares the hell out of people who don't know about it. I believe it's a pretty good passive security item, too, because through the window it looks like someone is there.

    I wonder what happened to the giant choir boys they put on the roof every Christmas.


    8 Jan 09 at 3:34 pm

  3. no I mean the one at Columbia Mall closed in 95. That's when Dillard's moved in. Not sure when they closed the one downtown. It seems like it was before 95. I used to work at the Art Museum. It was cool to walk around some of the areas that still look like Belks.

    Mr Bill

    8 Jan 09 at 4:39 pm

  4. Very depressing to see all these big stores closing...

    Bill C.

    10 Feb 09 at 12:44 am

  5. The Belk's in Columbia (pre-1995) were operated by one branch of the Belk family. The other branch operated stores in Charlotte and elsewhere. Apparently they didn't cooperate much with each other. The Columbia branch of the family decided to call it quits and sold out to Dillard's. A few years later, the White family here in Columbia decided to sell their White's stores. The Charlotte-based Belk people bought out the White's stores in Columbia at that point.


    21 Jan 10 at 11:48 am

  6. woooow dennis u got me jealous, i want the mannequins, but for free, so they were not in good shape...i thought they never do that..i got to save up sum money to get me one

    Aliina Jackson

    4 Feb 11 at 9:11 pm

  7. What happened was Belk pulled out in 1995 after one of the Belk brothers who was running the stores in Columbia wasn't meeting the bills. Then in 1998, JB White (under the division of Mercantile Stores, Inc.) sold out to Dillard's as did the whole Mercantile brand. Dillard's sold 26 stores in overlapping markets off. Belk bought the 3 Columbia locations of JB White. Consequently, in September 1998, JB White became Belk. I remember being in 5th grade and not very excited about it happening...


    4 Feb 11 at 9:51 pm

  8. Any word on the building at this point?

    Rashaad Egister

    13 Jul 11 at 12:51 am

  9. @Rashad, It appeaars to me that Columbia Place Mall does have some life left in it but I'm afraid that this particular mall is past its prime. Lookign at the lease plan from CBL & Associates, it does appear to have a decent mix but it does have two police substations, a unit of the Richland County School District, Harvest Hope and even an Armed Forces Career Center. So it still has a diverse list of tenants but not as big as it once was...


    14 Jul 11 at 12:02 am

  10. Columbia Mall has become more-so "urban" than in the past. It caters mostly to teen-agers and younger pre-fabed adults. The upper end of the Mall near what was JC Penny, is dead all the way...all the stores are 100% gone and boarded up. Sears is only a shell of it's former self, MusicLand/Sam Goody's is long gone along with KB Toys. The old Mall needs to be torn down and build something else on the property..and the shops behind the Mall need to be torn down also. The only Mall that does well anymore is Columbiana Mall..and it all goes back to Location, Location, Location.. and Columbia Mall isnt the place to go anymore.

    Del Bazemore

    15 Jul 11 at 1:49 am

  11. In fact, the last time I was in Columbia Mall..I was really one of the VERY few white people in there. I felt out of place and too old for that crowd that hangs out there now.

    Del Bazemore

    15 Jul 11 at 1:51 am

  12. When you have gangs taking over the malls in the 90s and new millenium, add to that the ability to shop on line from everything including your home computer, lap-top or app, and this is what happens. A lot of people lose jobs.

    Tom Seay

    5 Nov 11 at 8:46 am

  13. Do you know if there are any pictures of the Christmas windows at Belk's on Main and those giant choir boys they put on the roof every Christmas? Those were some of my fondest Christmas memories of downtown Columbia.

    Laurie Vaughn

    29 Jul 13 at 9:43 pm

  14. Laurie - I don't have any pics of the window displays or the choir boys but I do have one of a manger scene display. It looks angels on the flagpoles. I think this pic is from the early 60's but I'm not sure.

    Click here to see it (if my link works).....


    29 Jul 13 at 10:44 pm

  15. Homer's link does indeed took me a while to find the manger scene but I finally did...and judging from the Belk lettering and knowing what I do about Belk's logo history (stemming from what I've read on their Wiki page) I'd say the pic you linked above was most likely taken prior to 1967...


    30 Jul 13 at 12:08 am

  16. I would love to find some pics of the old window displays. That would bring back so many childhood memories. Like the scenes at the beginning of 'A Christmas Story' when the kids are watchin the animated displays and Ralphie eyes his Red Ryifer BB


    30 Jul 13 at 2:15 am

  17. Red Ryder even.....


    30 Jul 13 at 2:17 am

  18. I started working at Belk's when it was still known as Belk's in 1966, the day after Thanksgiving. The store opened at 10am that day after the annual Christmas parade. My father, mother, and aunt worked there. I would love to have a photo of that store on Hampton St. and at least one photo of their annual Christmas animated window which drew people from all over the county to see their wonderful window. After leaving for college a sure fire way to see old high school friends was to shop at Belk's.

    Denise Lenore

    21 Mar 16 at 11:41 am

  19. @Denise - did you see my post above from 29 Jul 13 at 10:44 pm. This is a picture of the store with the manger scene and the trumpeting angels. This is the only Christmas related pic I have run across.


    22 Mar 16 at 12:59 am

  20. I have such fond memories of Columbia Mall from the early 80s. Going to dinner at Morrison's with my mom and brother and then hitting Leisure Time and Playland Toys. I remember JC Penney and Belk both having toy departments, though neither was impressive. I loved the way Belk was decorated at Christmas, with the huge tree in front the elevator.


    22 Jul 17 at 3:14 am

  21. When Belks first opened downtown and John Belk started the store, it was a good place to work so I've been told. But when he retired, his sons Bill and Carl took over. Carl got the stores in Charlotte, NC and Bill got the Columbia stores.. Carl was nice and not hard to get along with at all. Bill Belk was and is another story in itself. He was and still is a total $#@!!! and that's from personal experience with him. That's why Belk's closed here, because of him and internal fighting in the Belk Family. Glad its gone.

    Del Bazemore

    2 Feb 18 at 3:59 pm

  22. I heard that a probelm with a Belk brother paying the bills was why Belk left Columbia...then in 1998 when Mercantile Stores, Inc. sold out to Dillard's, they bartered some things out that resulted in Columbia's JB White* locations becoming Belk. I remember it happening and wasn't excited and I've (over the years) periodically heard from people that miss JB White (I've even heard that there are people out there that still refer to Belk at Richland Mall as White's). I remember when JB White became Belk and I wasn't too excited about it.

    * JB White was a division of Mercantile Stores, Inc.


    2 Feb 18 at 4:34 pm

  23. While I did not know Bill Belk personally, I knew people who did and they all told me he was a back-stabbing nut job. When Belk returned to Columbia, the head of the company at the time publicly admitted that leaving Columbia was one of the company's biggest mistakes ever.


    3 Feb 18 at 2:10 pm

  24. How many stores does belk now operate? I know they sponsor the belk Bowl in Charlotte.

    Joe Shlabotnik

    3 Feb 18 at 5:20 pm

  25. According to Wikipedia there are 300 stores.


    3 Feb 18 at 6:14 pm

  26. 300 as of 2014....


    3 Feb 18 at 6:15 pm

  27. And those stores are in 16 states it goes on to say...35 of them are in SC, 65 in NC but only 18 in Virginia or 24 in Florida...


    3 Feb 18 at 8:26 pm

  28. John Belk bought Mimaughs Dept. store downtown Columbia in the 1930's (I think) and he ran the Columbia store until the 70's or so, then one of his sons Bill Belk took over the Columbia market and had nothing but problems. Bill Belk was a total A-hole. I worked for that Company from 1989-1990 at Columbia Mall. His brother Carl Belk had much more success at his stores in Charlotte NC..which I think made Bill mad. But there was a lot of family I think that's why they sold out to Dillard or whoever it was. Columbia Mall is an Am-Was Mall just like what's left of Dutch Square Mall. Sears is another example of big company's not being at all what they used to be or started out to be. I dont miss working retail a bit though.


    21 Jul 18 at 4:22 pm

  29. They still have the "this Dillard's location is closed" signs up

    Matthew Benjamin

    20 Feb 24 at 12:38 am

  30. Well, it is :-)


    20 Feb 24 at 1:00 am

  31. I used to like going to the Belk at Richland Mall, when they had the "red markdowns"...clothes up to 75% off from the "retail price". I later learned that many retail prices are actually fake. They are only put there to make the sale price seem like a deal. But I still got several things at decent prices.


    20 Feb 24 at 7:57 am

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