Tribune Tribute: Leon F. Baskerville

December 13, 2013

Leon F. Baskerville sits in a small office located inside of Belk’s Elkin department store.

When inside the room and in front of Baskerville’s desk, one notices a painting illustrating a city skyline — New York City, to be specific, with the Twin Towers included in the art.

“I will never forget 9-11. That was one of the most frightening days ever. It’s surreal because it was the very first day I arrived in North Carolina for work,” said Baskerville, who is more notably known as being Belk’s highly popular store manager.

Baskerville was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lived in Kings County for two years before his parents moved to Far Rockaway, a section of Queens County.

“I loved growing up in New York. It had its challenges too, but you get through it. Getting to meet people from different backgrounds, cultures, so many things to experience certainly prepares you for life,” he said.

Baskerville said he met his wife, Sharon Baskerville, in senior year of high school.

“I think we both knew that it was time to raise a family elsewhere. I was 23 and we left to Connecticut,” he said.

Baskerville lived in Connecticut for six years. He worked for Cityline Distributors, several other lower end management companies until Lowe’s Home Improvement opted to expand up north.

“They expanded to the New Haven area, the first Connecticut store. I actually jumped onto the opportunity. I worked for them for three months as a lower manager. I got my foot in the door. I took a test for a store manager trainee program. I passed,” he said.

Baskerville was part of a team credited for opening new Lowe’s store locations in the region until another retail store made him an offer.

“The Gap were seeking big box volume managers,” he said.

Baskerville indicated that his arrival to a new life in North Carolina and job with Gap was emotional because his arrival was on the day of the Twin Towers attack.

“Being a New Yorker, the first thing I did was call my sister,” he said. Baskerville reflected on the conversation he shared with his sibling. All family members were accounted for, but it was not a reason for celebration.

Baskerville turned to the art behind him and said that Sharon brought in the picture. Everyone from the greater New York region knows of someone who perished in the attack.

Baskerville paused for a moment to stare at the art, or maybe part of his past.

When he moved to North Carolina, Baskerville lived in Winston-Salem. He maintained his work with Gap. Express had made him an offer for a low volume store in High Point, and Baskerville would finally have the title of store manager.

Baskerville eventually transferred to Hanes Mall where he indicated that the regional vice president of Belk would routinely walk into the Express store.

“He would come into the store and check the racks looking to see if all of them were in order. I would always engage him like any customer. We kept talking over the months,” he said.

Eventually the conversations got more intense. Baskerville made the leap to Belk three years ago.

“In retail, the years I spent in it, the manager is there to make sure the entire experience comes together. I do everything possible for the shopper experience,” he said.

When he’s not at the Belk store, you’ll find Baskerville working out at the gym. Sharon joins in on the workouts often.

Baskerville makes a daily commute to Greensboro.

“Accepting that commute was a tough decision. It’s for my children. You have to follow what’s in the heart of your children. Making new friends and moving is always tough on any kid, so we’re just getting them through high school,” he said.

Baskerville has been on vacation, but only a couple of times since moving here.

“Yeah, I traveled to New York,” he said laughing. “I don’t know. Having all of my family up there and my sister and the church involved with LobsterFest made the trip a no-brainer for us.”

Baskerville, a sci-fi fan, said that he loves watching a good movie. His favorite is the Matrix. “I don’t know what it is about the movie, but I love it.

“Believe me, we take turns. I don’t always get a sci-fi movie. Sometimes I get stuck with the love stories because Sharon likes them, too,” he said.

Late at night, Baskerville revealed a sweet tooth.

“Ice cream. I’ll get a couple scoops of butter pecan,” he said. “I admit it. I’m bad with ice cream. I gotta have it.”

However, sleep is short. Baskerville is an early riser.

“I’m the one up around 5 a.m. and begin sending out my emails,” said Baskerville, smiling. “I only need five hours of sleep. I get that early drive and early rising ability probably from my father who was a cop on the NYPD.”

That was Officer Harry Baskerville.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.