Written By Jonathan Martin

Paul Howard Rose, born in 1881, had a knack for entrepreneurship.  When he was young boy, for example, Rose sold his mother’s cookies and wood bundles to make a buck. Later in life and with limited capital, Rose opened his first department store in Littleton, North Carolina. After his time in Littleton, Paul Rose became a traveling salesman and he periodically visited five-and-ten cent stores to determine the best price for certain goods to be sold.

In 1915, Rose, with the plan to create a chain of department stores, partnered with two businessmen and bought stock in United 5 & 10 Cent Stores. The United Stores failed to stay open, so Paul Rose decided to go it alone. Several months later, Rose borrowed $500 from his brother-in-law, and he bought a building in Henderson. Rose had success with his first store because he priced his stock reasonably and shoppers had the opportunity to walk and shop however they saw fit. (In the past, general stores were organized with items behind the counter, and a clerk had to find every item the shopper wanted).

In 1927, Rose’s 5, 10, and 25 Cent Stores were incorporated in the state of Delaware, and in 1962, the name of the company was changed to Rose’s, Inc. Although Paul Rose passed away in 1955, Thomas Rose, Paul’s brother, continued operation of the company. The chain continued to be successful–250 stores were in 11 southeastern states by the 1980s.  Roses “had three distribution warehouses, a fixture manufacturing plant, a New York buying office, and fleet of trucks” at its zenith of operation (Powell, p. 989).

By the time Wal-Mart and K-Mart entered the national scene of supermarket competition, Roses started to decline in the 1990s. Eventually, the company declared bankruptcy in 1993. However, Art and John Pope, a brother team who owned Variety Wholesalers, Inc., bought the Rose’s company in 1997. The whole transaction cost $15.3 million.  Under their leadership, the company started to be successful again and 106 Roses exist today. Today, according to the Variety Wholesaler’s website, the Roses stores range in a size of “30,000 square feet to 70,000 square feet and are chiefly competitive with discount stores such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc” (About Variety Wholesalers).

Despite the economic downturn that the Roses encountered in the 1990s, many North Carolina residents may remember Roses as the first discount store they shopped at. In addition, Roses have been considered the first to be part of a discount store chain in the southeast United States.