Leon Levine

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Leon Levine (born June 8, 1937) is an American businessman and philanthropist. He founded the Family Dollar chain of discount stores.

Early life[edit]

Leon Levine was born on June 8, 1937 in Wadesboro, North Carolina. The family actually lived in Rockingham, North Carolina but the town had no hospital. The family ran a small town store called The Hub. It was a true family operation, with the children helping. His brother Sherman and his mother ran the Hub until it closed in 1960.

In 1949, when Leon was 12, his father died from a heart attack. The loss allowed him to become closer to his mother. In 1951, his brother Sherman was drafted to serve with the military in Korea, which left Leon to take on more responsibilities at the store. He would go to school in the morning and work in the afternoon. The time in store gave Leon the bug for business.


In 1956 Leon and Sherman purchased a chenille bedspread factory in Wingate, North Carolina. He attended Wingate College, now Wingate University so he could run the factory after classes. After a discouraging sales trip to New York, Leon kept at and was able to find a good market for his bead spreads in Puerto Rico. In 1958, Leon, realizing he had to make a major capital investment in new equipment to stay competitive, sold the company.

In 1959 he visited a store in Kentucky that sold nothing for over a dollar. He liked the concept and in November 1959, at age 22, he opened up a similar store in the 1500 block of Central Avenue in Charlotte that sold items for no more than $2. He named it Family Dollar for the affordability of its products and the demographic that it was aimed towards.[1] Leon began family dollar with $3,000 of his own money and $3,000 from a partner. The concept was simple, a clean and well-lit neighborhood discount store, located in low-to-middle income areas. Family dollar has always had an emphasis on quality and good value. Because of that philosophy, Family Dollar has rarely bought irregulars. Instead, they supplement regular lines of merchandise with opportunistic purchases of manufacturers overruns and factory close outs.

Leon didn't wait long to grow his business. In June 1960, he opened a second store, also in Charlotte, next door to Park 'n Shop on Wilkinson Boulevard. Later that year he opened a third store in Charlotte, followed by Hamlet, North Carolina. This same year he realized that the $2 price cap was not viable and changed it to $3, a ceiling he kept until 1972. In 1961, Family Dollar expanded into South Carolina. In 1962, Family Dollar did $2 million in business, and moved into Augusta, GA. He also went solo, buying out his partners interest in Family Dollar. By the end of 1979 Family Dollar had 380 stores in eight states.

In 1974, Family Dollar moved its administrative and warehouse space to a newly built facility in Mathews, North Carolina. In 1970, Family Dollar decided to go public on the stock exchange. In 1972 Family Dollar's common stock began trading on the AMEX.

Personal life[edit]

During a summer vacation to Florida in 1957, he met Barbara Leven, who lived in Chicago. It was a whirlwind courtship. He visited her that thanksgiving, she visited his family at Christmas; and in February 1958, they were married. Howard Russel was born on Christmas Day 1958, Lori Ann was born in December 1960; and Mindy Ellen was born in August 1963. Barbara, would die from breast cancer at the age of 27 in 1966.

On June 5, 1978 he married Sandra Poliakoff. Leon and Sandra had met earlier in the 1960s when Sandra was friends with his first wife, Barbara. They had lost touch over the years but renewed a friendship at the end of 1975. It was not long before Leon, as always, knew what he wanted and acted on it. Their daughter Amy was born in June 1981. Leon, along with his wife Sandra Levine (née Poliakoff), an Anderson, SC native, have been involved in numerous charitable and philanthropic causes. Sandra Levine has served on the Board of Commissioners of the Carolinas Healthcare System. They have three grown children along with 10 grandchildren. He is also a member of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame. Leon Levine goes to Temple Beth El and has a social hall named after him.[2]

He and his wife currently reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2003, Leon retired as Chairman and CEO of Family Dollar. His son, Howard is currently CEO of Family Dollar.


External links[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.historync.org/laureate%20-%20Leon%20Levine.htm
  2. ^ http://www.levinechildrenshospital.org/body_nospace.cfm?id=33
  3. ^ http://www.queens.edu/About-Queens/Campus-Improvements/Future-Projects/Levine-Center-for-Wellness-and-Recreation.html
  4. ^ http://publicrelations.uncc.edu/default.asp?id=15&objId=570
  5. ^ http://www.charlottecountryday.org/tour/index.aspx?LinkID=10510&ModuleID=329
  6. ^ http://www.cpcc.edu/campuses/levine
  7. ^ "Levine Center for the Arts - About". Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  8. ^ http://www.levinechildrenshospital.org/body_nospace.cfm?id=33
  9. ^ http://www.charlottejcc.org/
  10. ^ http://www.jewishcharlotte.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=158478
  11. ^ http://www.museumofthenewsouth.org/