Meet the fourth-generation Beall who will lead the Bradenton company into the future

Bealls Stores, Inc. recently announced that Matt Beall, the great-grandson of founder Robert M. Beall, who started the company in 1915, was named president of Bradenton-based Bealls Stores, Inc.

Beall, 40, began his retail career at Ross Stores and joined his family business in 2004 at an entry-level buying position.

Over the past 15 years, he worked his way up in the business and has held numerous leadership roles within Bealls Stores, Bealls Outlet Stores, and Bealls Inc., including buying, planning, logistics, finance and store operations.

Most recently, Beall held the position at Beall’s Stores of senior vice president-chief merchandising officer, while also having responsibilities for marketing, exclusive brands, planning and allocation.

“Matt is the fourth in a succession of amazing executives from the Beall family that have led our company to thrive and prosper for more than 100 years. Matt is extremely bright, intensely competitive and an innovative and out-of-the-box thinker. He is deeply committed to the long-term success of the business,” said Steve Knopik, CEO Bealls Inc.

Matt Beall recently answered questions from the Bradenton Herald about the future of the company:

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Robert “Bob” Beall Chairman Emeritus, Bealls, Inc. and his son Robert “Matt” Beall, President, Bealls Stores, Inc. provided photo

Q. What are your priorities for moving Bealls into the future?

A. Listening to our guests (customers) is our No. 1 priority. We are here to serve our guests by giving them what they want, and they are the basis for every decision that we make. We strive to provide a pleasant shopping experience with great customer service and a uniquely Florida right assortment. We go to bat for them in market consistently to provide the best quality, brands and prices that we can.

Q. What are your challenges?

A. Retail itself is very challenging right now. Some retailers are going out of business due to pressures on topline sales and increasing costs. These pressures are coming from a change in mentality as it relates to how people shop. It is unprecedented for so many retailers to file bankruptcy and close stores in such a short period of time. While we are not immune to a decline in traffic, I’m proud to say that Bealls has been able to remain healthy because of our people and our loyal guests.

Bealls staffers were putting finishing touches on the flagship store at 6355 Manatee Ave. W., preparing for the grand reopening in October. Cheryl Allen is putting up a sign in the sandal department. Bradenton Herald file photo

Q. Has it always been your goal to be in the family business?

A. When I was a very young child, I used to want to be the person that changed traffic lights from red to green and vice versa, because they would always annoy my mom so much when no one was coming and she couldn’t go. I could never figure out where those people sat and why they were so slow at changing the lights! That changed when I got a little older and realized that the place we always shopped (Bealls) was where my dad worked, and I saw how nice the people were that worked there. From about age 8 I wanted to be a part of that. My parents never mentioned to me that they wanted me to work at Bealls, and I think due to my competitive nature, that made me want to work there even more. Now I have developed such a passion for our business and our people that I couldn’t imagine a different career path.

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Founded in Bradenton in 1915, Bealls Inc. has more than 500 stores. Bradenton Herald file photo

Q. How do you view your career at this point?

A. My first job was working summers at our West Bradenton store in the stockroom. After a while I became a sales associate at the same store, and then worked in our distribution center processing merchandise. I worked at every processing area so it was great to see how the product came in, was processed, and left the building for our stores. After college at the University of Florida, I moved to Manhattan and worked for Ross Stores in their buying office as an assistant buyer. From there I earned my MBA and then started with Bealls Outlet in an entry-level planning role. I’ve been fortunate to work for both Bealls Stores and Bealls Outlet Stores over the past 14 years. The most rewarding part of my career has been the ability to work with and learn from so many talented people in so many different levels of the organization. By learning from all of them and gaining their trust and respect, I’ve progressed to the position which I currently hold, President of Bealls Stores.

Q. Who are your role models or mentors? How did they inspire you?

A. My dad is my role model. He is the most humble, genuine, warm and kind person I know. I have been blessed to be around him for my entire life, as he has always and will always inspire me to be a better person.

Q. Do you have children who might follow you into the business?

A. I do have children and I am taking the same approach with them as my parents did with me regarding the business. I want them to do what they love and love what they do and they will figure that out as they get older. There is a lot of pressure in retail and it isn’t for everyone.

Q. What are the benefits of being based in Bradenton? Has there ever been discussion about moving elsewhere?

A. The Bradenton area is beautiful. My family and I love being here and we love the community. The outstanding weather is certainly a major plus when it comes to recruiting top talent from other retailers in America. We have no desire to move to another location and that has never been discussed.

Q. What are the ways Bealls gives back to the Bradenton community?

A. It started with our founder, my great-grandfather R.M. Beall. He was a huge believer in giving back to the community and that spirit lives on today. We now work regularly with groups such as the United Way, The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, Southeastern Guide Dogs, the Coastal Conservation Association, Habitat for Humanity of Manatee, the Manatee Community Foundation, Take Stock in Children of Manatee and the Palmetto Youth Center.

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