Judy Seale has always considered Belk among her top shopping destinations and frequently made the 20-minute drive from her Bethlehem home to the department store in Athens
Now, Belk is just a mile away.
The department store chain Wednesday cut the ribbon at a new 74,000-square-foot store at Barrow Crossing in Bethlehem in Barrow County.
Seale was among the hundreds of Barrow residents, elected officials and Belk associates attending the ceremony. She considers herself extra lucky - not only is one of her favorite shopping stops nearby, but she also landed a job at the new store.
Seale was scheduled to work at 6 p.m. but came to the morning grand opening to share in the pride of being a Belk employee.
"Belk really builds a relationship with the community and that's important," Seale said while waiting for the ribbon cutting to begin. "I love the people. I've never come across more friendly, helpful and considerate people," she said in reference to how Belk and its associates have become engaged in the Winder-area community.
The new store is part of the Barrow Crossing shopping center, 916 Loganville Highway (Ga. Highway 81) just off Ga. Highway 316.
The Target store at the center, complete with a Starbucks inside, opened last week and held its official grand opening Saturday. The new center includes a Staples office supply store, PetSmart, and a Rue 21 clothing store, with more space available.
In opening remarks, Royce Pittman, vice president and regional manager, said the new store was a homecoming for the Belk family after an absence of a dozen years. Belk opened a store in downtown Winder in 1934. In the mid-'70s, the facility relocated to the Holly Hills center, but closed in 1996.
"It's good to be back," Pittman said.
During the ceremony, Pittman presented a $5,000 check from Belk to The Tree House, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce child abuse and its impact through counseling, education, support, and the nurturing of children and families in Barrow, Banks, and Jackson counties.
It was a busy day for the 309-store, family-owned company that operates in 16 southern states. Also Wednesday, Belk opened stores in Newnan and Richmond, Ky.