Log in Subscribe

Bealls shares the rewards of success


BRADENTON -- Bill Webster directs public and government affairs for Bealls Inc., and also makes preschool-level flashcards and models stylish casual wear for the United Way.

 Bill Webster directs public relations for Bealls Inc., and donates his time and care to the

local community, too.

The department and outlet store founded in Bradenton in 1915 by R.M. Beall, as a local dry goods store, is the top employer in Bradenton, and has maintained its level of giving and volunteering for local charities.

The United Way has received help from Bealls, as well as Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Bealls also hosts five blood drives a year, offers college scholarships to students staying in Florida and helps in natural disasters.

"We are doing the same thing we have always been doing," Webster said while pulling out a folder of upcoming events benefiting the community. "I've been thinking about the expression 'giving back' and I've always thought it's sort of a misnomer because it implies you are taking something and then you are giving it back."

He said Bealls is selling quality merchandise that people want.

"We have just under 10,000 employees," Webster said. "The number in Manatee county was 1,500."

Local employees donate $2 a month to the United Way, and wear their favorite sports team shirts and jeans. This adds up, and Webster said Bealls often contributes $500 to $600 each time they host employee giving.

"The biggest thing we do is United Way," Webster said. "In the last nine years, we've contributed an average of $70,000 a year, with employee giving and corporate giving combined."

The employees also do a lot of volunteering in the community.

On Oct. 16 and 23, Webster and the Bealls staff volunteered for the United Way's Day of Caring and the Women's Leadership Initiative.

Sharon Cheatham is an executive assistant to Bealls CEO and she was a volunteer model at the United Way "Girls just want to have fun" fundraiser. 

Although Webster may joke that he spent most of the time fixing a laminating machine, he had actually helped to make flashcards for United Way's preschool-education program that helps disadvantaged mothers with tools to help their young children learn.

For the organization's Women's Leadership Initiative's "Girls just want to have fun" event at the Bradenton Country Club, Bealls donated clothes for the fashion show.

Webster walked on the catwalk and lined up in the hallway with other models, including Bealls workers and participants from local charities.

He got cheers from the audience, but he also drew attention through exaggerated poses and long pauses for photos.

Carol Janssens, a member of the human resources team at the company, organized the models for their runway debut. Two models were from Children's Haven in Sarasota, a facility for mentally and physically handicapped adults, and Sharon Cheatham, executive assistant to Steve Knopik who is the CEO of the company.

Cheatham appeared to be a professional and was very serious about modeling Bealls's fall fashions.

"She's a natural," Janssens said about her colleague's performance. "Don't you think?"

Angela Moore, director of marketing and events for the United Way of Bradenton, said Bealls is one of their major sponsors and provides the manpower and the fashion for the runway show.

"They have been an amazing sponsorship for 10 years now," Moore said. "It benefits women's leadership, which focuses on investing in the youth of our community."

Moore said they cleared at the event between $2,000 and $3,000 to help support the community.

 In 1970, R.M. Beall, E.R. Beall and Bob Beall stand on a balcony where fabrics were displayed. Fabrics were discontinued from the Beall company in 1980.

The vision of community support dates back to the beginning of the company when Bradenton was called Bradentown, Webster said.

The Beall family was very active in donating to the community and raised local employment and economic activity, bringing a lot of income to the area during the Depression.

"In 2010, we hope that as the economy picks up for everybody that will allow us to increase our giving, and a couple of the other things we are doing now," Webster said.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.