Paul Howard Rose began his business career as a boy by selling his mother’s cookies, bundles of wood, and other items. His first attempt at a storefront operation was in Littleton, where he had limited funds to purchase stock and placed empty boxes to fill shelves to give the appearance of a fully-stocked store. Rose became a successful traveling salesman and, while selling his wares, visited with owners of five-and-ten stores, determining to consolidate stores’ purchases to get better overall pricing. He then developed a plan to open a chain of his own stores. Rose first attempted to partner with two other businessmen in a chain known as the United 5 & 10¢ Stores. The venture fell apart and the chain went defunct. In 1915 Rose then borrowed $500 from his brother-in-law to purchase a building in Henderson.
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Rose removed merchandise from behind counters (where it had to be retrieved by stock clerks) to shelves that shoppers could peruse at their own pace. Frank W. Woolworth had popularized the method of merchandising in 1879. Rose’s economical pricing led to the success of his business. In time Rose opened more stores, leading to the eventual operation of over 250 stores in eleven southeastern states. The company was incorporated in 1927 and its stock later was publicly traded. After Rose’s death in 1955, his brother Thomas took on the leadership of Rose’s. Many of the Rose’s stores were relocated as an “anchor store” within some of the first strip shopping centers. For many shoppers in North Carolina, Rose’s is the first large discount store they can recall. The chain faced stiff competition with the emergence of “big box” retailers and in 1993 the company filed for bankruptcy protection, reorganized its operations, and by 1995 was again a profitable chain. The company was sold in 1997 to Variety Wholesalers, Inc., which still operates stores under the original Rose’s name.
“Rose’s Stores, Inc.,” International Directory of Company Histories, XIII (1996)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 249-250—sketch by Thomas B. Rose Jr.
Rose’s Stores, Inc. Records, 1919-1996, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Karen Plunkett-Powell, Remembering Woolworth's (1999)