Paul H. Rose, of the Rose’s Retail Chain

An Asheboro Rose's in 1949. Image from the State Library

An Asheboro Rose’s in 1949. Image from the State Library

RALEIGH, NC January 19, 2014 – On January 19, 1955, Paul Howard Rose, founder of the chain of Rose’s discount department stores, died at age 73.

Born in 1881 in Seaboard, Rose discovered his knack for merchandising early on. At age 12, he set up a wooden packing crate outside his hometown pharmacy and sold bundles of wood, his mother’s homemade cookies and other items. After attending business school in Virginia, Rose opened a store in Littleton. At times his capital was so limited he used empty shoeboxes to help fill the shelves. For a time Rose worked as a traveling salesman. He used that experience to educate himself about competitive pricing strategies.

Rose partnered with two businessmen, purchased stock in United 5 & 10 Cent Stores, and opened retail outlets in Henderson and Charlotte. The venture failed, but in 1915, Rose borrowed $500, bought a shop in Henderson and opened the first Rose’s. A novelty at the time, 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.

The entrepreneur eventually operated 280 Rose’s stores in 11 southeastern states. Today, about 106 Rose’s stores still exist.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online.