By Stephanie Pego
Before Bealls Inc. operated over 530 retail store sites across the southern and eastern United States, it was a dry goods store in a small Florida city at that time spelled Bradentown, with a population of just over 3,000 people, and most easily reached by steamboat from Tampa. A lot can happen in a century. This April, Bealls Department Stores celebrates its centennial anniversary as a family-owned business still headquartered in their founding hometown.
To honor the company’s 100th birthday, Bealls donated an outdoor mural to the city depicting the Bradenton-based store’s first day of business. Unveiled last month, the mural sits at Old Main St. and Third Ave. West in Bradenton, where the first Bealls store was opened by Robert M Beall.
Beall was 22-years-old when he first went into business for himself, using his total investment of $2,500 on stock, and repurposing the shipping crates his goods arrived in as sale’s display tables. Young Beall christened the business with the name of ‘The Dollar Limit.’
Starting as a store where everything was priced at a dollar, Bealls Inc. now employs 2,500 people in the region, CEO Steve Knopick said in an interview with the Herald Tribune, and the retailer has invested nearly $250 million in stores in Manatee County alone.
Current Chairman of Bealls Inc., Robert M Beall II, is the grandson of the founder. Beall was in attendance for the mural’s dedication, to honor the business’s anniversary and the enduring family heritage.
Painted by artist, John Allison, the mural is named “End of Day” and stands accompanied by a plaque that reads “Robert Beall stands on Main Street next to a crate of dry goods. It’s his first day of business in April 1915. Sidewalks are thronged with shoppers and passengers for the steamer that prepares for its return to Tampa.”
For more information about Bealls, visit www.beallsoutlet.com.