CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lewis Elliott Levine was born in the busy North Carolina railroad hub of Hamlet to entrepreneur parents and followed in their footsteps but found his greatest success in the Charlotte area during 10 years as president of his cousin’s growing Family Dollar discount retail chain.
He died in Myrtle Beach on March 6 at age 79.
He studied at Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina before coming to Charlotte. He founded Super Discount Store in Jacksonville, N.C., while still in his 20s and grew the business into a chain with locations along both Carolinas coasts.
Those were among his credentials when he went to work for Leon Levine, who opened the first Family Dollar variety store on Central Avenue in 1959.
Lewis Levine left the Matthews-based company in 1987 in a management shakeup and continued with his own startup efforts – Silk Plant Forest and Tree Factory were launched with his daughters – before settling in Myrtle Beach.
Family Dollar and other ventures made the Levines one of the area’s richest clans. The Levine Foundation is among the most recognized local philanthropic organizations, its gifts lifting the family’s name onto public buildings and other prominent positions around the region. Leon’s older brother, Alvin, founded Pic ’N’ Pay, a discount shoe chain, which has been in business for more than 50 years.
Family Dollar became a publicly owned company in 1970, and its success continued. By the time Lewis Levine left, it was a $500 million, 7,300-employee operation but was facing increasing competition from retailers such as Walmart.