© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
WFAE 90.7
P.O. Box 896890
Charlotte, NC 28289-6890
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Family Dollar founder leaves behind lasting legacy

Charlotte has lost one of its most prominent citizens. Leon Levine, the founder of Family Dollar, died Wednesday at 85. He was also a philanthropist who donated much of his fortune and whose name is part of several health care and cultural organizations, including Levine Children’s Hospital, Levine Cancer Institute and the Levine Museum of the New South, to name a few. For more, we now turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, Levine is just one of those names that's synonymous with Charlotte. I feel like it's almost easier to ask what organizations don't have some sort of connection to him.

Leon Levine and his wife Sandra Levine
The Leon Levine Foundation
Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra Levine.

Tony Mecia: Yeah, Marshall. It's really hard to overstate the effect that Leon Levine and his philanthropy had on Charlotte. As you mentioned, a lot of cultural institutions education, health care, a wide swath of different types of organizations received money and support from Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra. You mentioned a few of them. We put out a list, you know, when the news came out yesterday, we had people emailing too, 'Well, you forgot a few. What about the Levine campus of Central Piedmont Community College? What about the Levine Center at Charlotte Country Day School?' I mean, there's just, there's so many things that the Levine name is on and that they were supported by his philanthropy. It's really incredible. He started Family Dollar in the 1950s out of a store on Central Avenue. Family Dollar expanded. Thousands of stores, became a Fortune 500 company. They had a big campus in Matthews. He left the company in 2003, started the Leon Levine Foundation. And that's been a vehicle for a lot of the philanthropy that we're seeing around town now. Levine told the Charlotte Business Journal in 2009 that he planned to leave the bulk of his wealth to that foundation at the time of his death, which could increase the size of the foundation several times over.

Terry: Well, shifting now over to this year's Mecklenburg County property revaluation, county commissioners this week questioned tax assessor Ken Joyner about why many country clubs are seeing their property values fall, while homeowners, especially those of lower-priced homes, are seeing values rise. This is something Joyner explained a few times before, since a controversy started over the revaluation. Did he tell commissioners anything different this time?

Mecia: You have much more detailed information about how exactly the county reached those numbers. He shared information on all 27 golf courses in Mecklenburg County and their assessed values. I think 15 of them declined in value. He said it has to do with really the way they measure the value of these courses, is they look at the income of the golf courses and they try to look at comparable sales. There aren't a lot of sales of golf courses, but he did share some examples in the Carolinas of golf courses that had sold and said that really none had sold for over $10 million, which is right around the mark of where some of these country clubs are valued at. Some of the commissioners were a little bit frustrated at the outcome. But Ken Joyner laid out the information, said, here's what it is, here's how we did it, you know, we followed all the rules and we did everything the way we should have.

Terry: Now, in the end, county commissioners took no action. So is that it then, or could something be done to change these values?

Mecia: It sounds like this is going to be it. They sort of reached a consensus that maybe the best way to do this is to try to go to the state legislature and see if there's a different way that properties in the future could be valued. County Manager Dena Diorio and Commissioners' Chairman George Dunlap said that the commission really shouldn't be looking that closely and trying to engineer outcomes that professional staff and consultants have arrived at through a determined methodology. There were a few potential ways that they could have made some adjustments. They could have instructed the Board of Equalization to take a closer look at it. There are also the possibilities of appeals. A lot of people don't know — you can appeal your own valuation. But you can also appeal, if you're a county resident, any other property in Mecklenburg County. So it is conceivable that some citizen could come in and say, 'Well, I think this country club is valued too low and I would think the value should go up,' and they could appeal. So we might see something like that. But it definitely sounds like we're not going to see really anything concrete for this revaluation that's going to alter those values of country clubs.

Terry: All right. Well, let's move over to ABC stores now. In a bill in the state legislature that would allow them to be open on Sundays and some holidays and also allow some drinks to-go, what's behind this proposal and does it have a chance of becoming law?

Mecia: Every few years, legislators go about modifying ABC laws. As you might remember, Marshall, a few years ago, there was the so-called brunch bill that allowed serving of bloody marys and mimosas on Sunday morning. Does it have a chance of becoming law? I talked to an industry official. He said they've been working on it for a little while. They think it has a good chance, but with legislation you never really know. But I think the odds look good.

Terry: Finally, about 100 Charlotte small businesses took part in an expo recently, and you went to get a sense of the challenges they're facing. So what did you find out?

Mecia: Yes, we talked to a number of businesses at the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Expo last week, Marshall. And it really runs the gamut, all sorts of different things from staffing challenges, to getting the word out that they exist, to trying something different and, kind of, coming up against some of the old ways. We talked to a restaurant supply company that's developing environmentally-friendly takeout containers, (they) said the problem is that they're having a hard time convincing restaurants to move away from Styrofoam. Talked to a photographer who said that he's having trouble convincing people that the photos that she takes professionally are better than selfies that they can take on their iPhone. So, a whole bunch of different challenges. But a lot of them said they're doing well and hopeful that their businesses keep growing.

Terry: Did you get a feel for just how small businesses are doing right now?

Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, It really depends on the sector. Some sectors might be doing really well. Others are lagging. You know, we saw this a lot during COVID where, you know, for example, companies that were tied into people's stay-at-home lifestyle did pretty well. And ones that had to do with things like travel didn't do so well. And so it's sort of the same thing where it's very sector-dependent. Hard to say in general. We talked to some experts who said that some of the challenges that small businesses face generally now have to do with lending and access to capital, with some questions about the banking industry, as well as some of the staffing issues because unemployment remains so low.

Support for WFAE's BizWorthy comes from UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business, Sharon View Federal Credit Union and our listeners.

Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.