That's the first reaction that many shoppers are having when they walk through the front doors of the newly remodeled Belk in Spotsylvania Towne Centre.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk Inc. has given the store a top-to-bottom, $6 million makeover that includes redesigned exterior entrances, an open floor plan and flipped locations for cosmetics and menswear.
"Customers are saying that the store looks bigger," said manager Patrick Dunbar. "There's a little bit more square footage, but it's more open and you can see from one end of the store to the other."
Belk will hold its grand reopening and ribbon cutting at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. A $5,000 donation will be made to the Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity during the ceremony
Afterward, the first 300 customers will receive Belk gift cards ranging in value from $5 to $500 (one per customer) and a mini plush Belkie Bear. Additional grand opening events will be held through Nov. 21.
Belk was one of the original mall anchors when it opened in 1980. It was expanded and remodeled in 1993, but nothing major had been done until T.D. Farrell Construction of Alpharetta, Ga., began the revamp in March. It was conducted in stages so the store could remain open.
The Spotsylvania Towne Center location is one of 305 that the Belk chain is updating or expanding. Dunbar said that COO Johnny Belk visited last week and said the store here had made the biggest transformation he'd seen.
Dunbar's favorite change is the relocation and new look for the cosmetics department. It's now the first thing that shoppers see when they enter through the front doors, and it features new counters and open displays. Women no longer have to ask beauty consultants to get products for them.
"When you walk in, it looks like you're in a New York department store," Dunbar said.
The shoe department is still to the left of the entrance, but it has been expanded and is now devoted solely to women's shoes. Men's shoes have been given their own area in menswear, which has been moved to the entrance into the mall's main corridor.
The side entrance into the mall across from Dick's Sporting Goods has been permanently walled off. Dunbar said most customers used the other entrance into the mall, and closing this one allowed the store to expand its lingerie section and add Wacoal's bra line.
Women's clothing and accessories now dominate the area near the main entrance into the store, and menswear has been moved so it's the first thing shoppers see when they enter Belk from inside the mall. Fragrance and jewelry are in the center, and the children's and home goods departments remain where they were.
"We did a lot of color in children's," Dunbar said, pointing out bright colors on the walls and rack signs during a tour of the store on Thursday. "Each color is for an age range."
Several new brands have been added throughout the store, including Calvin Klein, Lucky and Made, a private label from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. There are also comfortable seating areas next to the dressing rooms.
"Belk did a lot of surveys of customers before the remodel," Dunbar said. "One thing they heard over and over was 'If you're going to do nice merchandise, we want nice fitting rooms.'"
The company is also letting stores that are reopening this month decorate now for Christmas, and the one in Spotsylvania Towne Centre already is bedecked with red and green.
Once the grand reopening is held, Dunbar said, employees will be too busy.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407