A part of Carroll County's retail history ended Thursday when the county's first chain department store changed its name from Leggett to Belk.
Despite a name change after 32 years in Westminster, the department store's longtime customers will find a family tie to Leggett's earliest days in Westminster.
Carl Rosen Jr., Belk's assistant manager, is the son of the manager of the original Leggett store at the Westminster Shopping Center on Route 140. Carl Rosen Sr. retired from Leggett in 1985 before the store moved to Cranberry Mall.
Leggett opened in Carroll County on March 4, 1965, with two floors in the 2-year-old Westminster Shopping Center, the first shopping center in the county, then still largely rural.
"Business had been done on Main Street before" the shopping center opened, recalled the elder Rosen, who lives in Westminster but spends part of the winter in Florida.
Westminster Shopping Center was built in hopes of luring a big-name department store from Baltimore. At the time, the only department stores in Carroll were Mather's, which closed last fall, and a J. C. Penney catalog store.
But during a visit to Virginia, Scott Barr, owner of the shopping plaza, found Leggett's and was impressed with its operation. He negotiated a contract with the family-owned company to bring the department store to Carroll County.
"Carroll County is a good place to be in business. I knew that from the beginning," the elder Rosen said. "The citizens are hard-working, God-caring, good people."
Cranberry Mall was Leggett's third location in the county.
After its 20-year lease ended at Westminster Shopping Center, the store made plans to move into Cranberry Mall, which was not yet under construction. While waiting for the mall to be built, Leggett's briefly occupied leased space at the Barrel House in Sherwood Square, an old whiskey factory.
"Mr. Carl Rosen Sr. came to Westminster in 1965 an opened the original store at Westminster Shopping Center and really was the founding person to develop the Leggett name in the county," said Steve Stewart, Belk's store manager.
Rosen, who worked for the Leggett company for 29 years, said, "Leggett had a tremendous influence on Carroll County retail development."
The county's first full-size department store with name-brand merchandise attracted customers from Hanover, Pa., Frederick, Randallstown and Sykesville.
"Leggett brought fashion to the county; this was a major department store. At that time, J. C. Penney had no brand-name merchandise. Leggett was the first in the area," said the younger Rosen.
Belk plans to continue Leggett's tradition as the county's upscale department store.
Customers "will see no significant change. Belk stores seem to be somewhat more fashion-forward, and we anticipate business as usual," Stewart said.
The Leggett family decided to sell all of its stock and controlling interest to the Belk family. All affiliated stores are now called Belk. Many former Leggett stores, such as the Frederick location, were closed when the stock was transferred.
The Westminster store "is one of the better stores, profitable and has done a good job for the Leggett family, and will continue to do so for the Belks," said the younger Rosen.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held March 12 to formally announce the name change.
Pub Date: 2/16/97