The store was relatively small and served a niche market of downtown workers and loft dwellers, which apparently did not fit Belk’s plan of operating larger stores. “That’s what they told us,” according to Dean Nix, Senior Vice President, Harbert Realty Services, which handles leasing for the building. Regions Harbert Plaza combines an office tower, food court and retail spaces. “It didn’t fit, that type of store and that size of store, was not what they continued to operate. We thought it was a viable spot for them. Parisian’s allegiance was to Birmingham and the central business district because they started downtown. Belk didn’t look at it the same way.”
The Weekly checked in on the dying store last Thursday. Caution tape blocked the foot of the elegant staircase that led to the now-closed second floor. Empty shelves were piled at the center of the store. The jewelry counters were empty. Only two registers were open. Signs everywhere said, “All sales final.” The only remaining stock was cosmetics and a few racks of women’s garments and a few tables of shoes, all marked down 75 percent.
Customer Dorcas Smith, who works downtown and shopped at Belk frequently, was making her last purchases at the store. “It’s terrible,” she says, referring to the closing, “There won’t be anywhere else to go shopping now.” She is not optimistic that a large department store will ever return to the city center. “I would like to think at some point in time there’ll be another one,” she says. “I think the chances are slim-to-none.”
“I’m sorry to say it’s our last department store,” Nix said. “But I’m optimistic that we can fill it pretty quickly. We have a couple of empty retail spaces, but the office tower is 98 percent leased. That’s the traffic that makes these stores work.”
According to Nix, the space could be used for either offices or retail, and there is a possibility that the two-level storefront could be split in two. “We haven’t ruled anything out,” he says. Nix said there are no new tenants as of yet, but, he says, “We are working on several possibilities.”