Chuck and Rosemary Schoenig, of Ringgold, Ga., showed up at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in front of Belk at Hamilton Place mall - about three hours before the doors opened at the refurbished store.
They were at the front of a line of several hundred shoppers outside the department store, where Belk officials gave away gift cards of $5 to $500 to the first 200 people.
Belk marked a "grand reopening" of its two Hamilton Place locations, where the company has spent $4 million in renovations over the past six months.
"The changes were based on what the customer wanted to see more of," said Chris Manning of Belk. "We're listening."
As part of the project, Belk shifted merchandise and consolidated its men's and home goods store to one level. It has leased the second floor to specialty fashion retailer Forever 21, which is to open in early 2011.
Belk updated interior design, decor and display fixtures. The children's department was relocated from the men's, home and children's store into the women's unit, according to Belk. That unit continues to house all women's apparel, accessories and cosmetics.
The juniors area received a major overhaul and shifted from the first level to the top floor of the women's store, officials said. Also, shoppers will see improvements in the ladies shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessory areas, according to Belk.
Belk kept the stores open during the work.
Alan Lebovitz, senior vice president of asset management for mall owner CBL & Associates Properties Inc., said the Belk investment is about growth.
"It's not just the bottom line and customer count," he said, but about jobs, spending, tax revenues and the shopper base.
Manning said Belk unveiled its new corporate logo on the stores. Its new tagline is: "Modern. Southern. Style." The logo and tagline represent the first significant change in the company's brand identity since 1967.
Manning said the Belk mission is to "satisfy the modern lifestyle like no one else." Still, he added the store "hasn't changed its core Belk values."
City Councilman Jack Benson joked with the large group of shoppers that "We don't want you to go to Atlanta and spend all day in traffic."
Hamilton County Commissioner Larry Henry called the revamped stores "a great amenity to Hamilton Place and the Chattanooga area."
Belk also made a $5,000 donation to Siskin Children's Institute.