Photo: Alex McKnight
Robert M. 'Bob' Beall II is a Florida ‘Icon'
(Chairman, Bealls department stores, Bradenton; age 71)
There are many forms that leadership can take. I’m a quiet person, so my form is probably not as outgoing as many. But if you lead by example and you make more right decisions than wrong decisions, then you’re probably going to do pretty well.
Florida’s growth and the advent of the shopping center combined to fuel our growth. In the early ’50s, the shopping center kind of got off the ground. Publix was doing a lot of shopping centers, and being able to tag along with Publix was really instrumental for us.
I was not in favor of the Bealls’ 100-year anniversary hoopla this year. I just thought, ‘Who would care about our company’s anniversary?’ But it turned out to be the right thing. Once we got into it, it was fun and enjoyable. I’m glad we did it. It was a mistake to not to want to do it in the first place.
My dad’s insistence that I work in the store while I was still in school was helpful to me in the long run. I remember — I must have been about 14 or so — when I became the window washer for the old downtown Bradenton store. Later, when we opened another store, I was kind of promoted to janitor. I’m not sure which was the better job, but I learned from both. I learned to get there on time, even on a Saturday. My dad got very upset when I was late one of the first few days, and that never happened again.
I was a little more risk-oriented in the older days. I remember I opened — I forgot the number of stores, maybe six or seven — but I opened enough stores in one year that it was 50% more sales space and store space than the previous year. My dad never said anything. I think he was worried. I was young, so I wasn’t so worried. If, say, three or four of those stores had been dogs, then I think we probably would have been out of business.
Amazon is certainly going to continue to grow. They’re a great organization. They’re very predatory, and I don’t use that negatively.
Subconsciously, I must have a style because I gravitate toward the same things. My casual clothes mostly come from Bealls. If I need a jacket or a suit or something like that — usually, when we’re in New York for one thing or another once or twice a year — I’ll go to Paul Stuart and get it there.
Florida has had its little moments, but, in general, the growth has been terrific and very conducive to our sort of business.
The future of retail is going to be difficult, but I’m confident. We were very early to start an e-commerce function, selling goods through e-commerce. That was probably 10 years ago. We thought at the time that technology could be the killer of retail. We were quite worried so we wanted to get that going and we did, and we continue to put a lot of money into technology both in terms of the systems and software, people and so forth. My feeling right now is that if we put a lot of our department stores near the water in resorty sorts of areas, people who are on vacation and visitors who have a lot of leisure time will continue to see shopping as an activity they want to do.
I think we’re becoming over time more and more like Europe in a way, maybe learning to enjoy things more and work a little less.
My grandfather started the company 100 years ago. My dad ran the business, and I followed my dad. I feel like I was a good custodian of our brand, a good builder of it, but I never really thought a lot about being the standard-bearer of the company name. I’m not consciously trying to create a legacy per se. In that way, I suppose I’m like my dad. Our kids, they see what we do. They learn what they like about it and what they don’t like about it — and they make their own choices.
The economy in 2008-09 was very worrisome for me. My blood pressure was up.
I was on the golf team in high school, and that’s probably about the last time I played golf. It just took up too much time.
From my family, I learned the importance of honesty certainly. From a business perspective, I learned the value of putting most of the profits back into the business rather than paying ourselves larger salaries.
I don’t like the traffic and the crowded beaches and this and that, but I think growth is Florida’s destiny.
In case you missed it:
- Wilson Bradshaw is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Craig Fugate is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Michael Saunders is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Joey Cornblit is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alex Sink is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Norman Braman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Bello Nock is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Zev Buffman is a ‘Florida Icon'
- M.J. Soileau is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Susan Benton is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Terry Stiles is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Theresa Manuel is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Dan ‘Tater' Porter is a Florida Icon
- Joe Redner is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Nicole Johnson is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ron Magill is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Artis Gilmore is a ‘Florida Icon'
- An Interview with George Billiris
- Frank Morsani is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Alto ‘Bud' Adams Jr. is a ‘Florida Icon'
- Winston Scott is a 'Florida Icon'
- Florida Icon: Carlton Ward Jr.
- Florida Icon: Mel Tillis
- Peter Meinke - A life in poetry
- Carl Hiaasen is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Nan-Yao Su is a Florida 'Icon'
- Roland Martin is a Florida ‘Icon'
- Florida Icon: Derrick Brooks
- An interview with Annika Sorenstam
- Iconic Florida developer H. Irwin Levy
- ‘Alligator' Ron Bergeron is a Florida Icon
- Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
- Florida Icon: Barbara Mainster
- Florida Icon: Walter Lanier ‘Red' Barber
- Louise Gopher is a 'Florida Icon'
- H. Lee Moffitt is a 'Florida Icon'
- Kiran Patel is a 'Florida Icon'
- 'Florida Icon' Howard C. Tibbals shares life lessons
- Alex D. Brickler is a 'Florida Icon'
- Life lessons from hockey great Phil Esposito
- Lucy Morgan is a 'Florida Icon'
- Donald Goodman is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ed Droste is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ray Ferrero Jr. - Florida Icon
- W. George Allen is a 'Florida Icon'
- Tom James is a 'Florida Icon'
- Patrick Smith is a 'Florida Icon'
- Jerry Uelsmann is a 'Florida Icon'
- John L. Parker is a 'Florida Icon'
- C.C. 'Doc' Dockery is a 'Florida Icon'
- Toni Jennings is a 'Florida Icon'
- Dave Barry is a 'Florida Icon'
- Shaquille O'Neal is a 'Florida Icon'
- Ruth Alexander is a Florida Icon
- Brian Johnson is a Florida Icon
- Florida Icon: Sam Gibbons
- Thomas 'Blue' Fulford
- Icon: Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits
- Icon: Charles E. 'Chuck' Cobb Jr.
- Icon: John DeGrove
- Icon: Charles Gray
- Icon: Harry Crews
- Icon: Burt Reynolds
- Icon: Tibor Hollo
- Icon: Gary Mormino
- Icon: Richard Gonzmart
- Icon: Bob Graham
- Icon: Ward Hall
- Icon: Eugenie Clark
- Icon: Warrick Dunn
- Icon: Arthur Rutenberg
- Icon: Chris Evert
- Icon: Preston Haskell
- Icon: Joseph Kittinger
- Icon: The Fanjul Brothers
- Icon: Romero Britto
- Icon: Steve Raymund
- Icon: Cesar L. Alvarez
- Icon: Juan 'Chi Chi' Rodriguez
- Icon: Gay Culverhouse
- Icon: Gene Leedy
- Icon: William R. Hough
- Icon: Peter Prichard
- Icon: Ed Price
- Icon: David L. Paul
- Icon: Jan Garavaglia
- Icon: Claude R. Kirk Jr.
- Icon: Don Zimmer
- Icon: Kenneth H. 'Buddy' MacKay
- Icon: Dick Vitale
- Icon: Michael Gannon
- Icon: Marcella Hazan
- Icon: Tony Little
- Icon: Wade L. Hopping
- Icon: Edgar Mitchell
- Icon: James Rosenquist
- Icon: Bob Martinez
- Icon: Arnold Palmer
- Icon: Don Shula
- Icon: Mike Peters
- Icon: Margaret D. Lowman
- Icon: Doug Williams
- Icon: Bob Butterworth
- Icon: Fred Schultz
- Icon: Eugene Patterson
- Icon: Harris Mullen
- Icon: Bill Haast
- Icon: Marion P. Hammer
- Icon: Albert Dunlap
- Icon: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett
- Icon video: Joseph Hatchett
- Icon: Talbot 'Sandy' D'Alemberte
- Icon: John Walsh
- Icon: James Robert Cade
- Icon: Nathaniel Pryor Reed
- Icon: Gus Stavros
- Icon: Betty Castor
- Icon: Mary Ann Carroll
- Icon: George Steinbrenner
- Icon: Ferdie Pacheco
- Icon: Vic Dunaway
- Icon: George Smathers
- Icon: Phyllis Apple
- Icon: Nick Bollettieri
- Icon: Harris Rosen
- Icon: Max Mayfield
- Icon: Carrie Meek
- Icon: Andres Duany
- Icon: T. Willard Fair
- Icon: Bobby Bowden
- Icon: Stetson Kennedy
- Icon: Don Francisco
- Icon: Janet Reno
- Icon: Reubin O'D. Askew
- Icon: Clyde Butcher
- Icon: Willie Gary
- Icon: Wayne Huizenga