John W. Pope

Hometown: Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina

Industry: Retail Stores

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early life

Growing up in a small North Carolina town, John William Pope rose above his competition and successfully turned a small family retail business into 500-store company. Beginning at age 10, Pope learned about hard work first hand by working in his father’s variety store. He joined the U.S. Army Air Force at age 17, training as a navigator. After being discharged in 1945, he attended the University of North Carolina and graduated with a degree in commerce.


These formative years proved to be invaluable when he took over his family’s five-store chain in 1949. With his unique blend of hard work and cost effective strategies he grew Variety Wholesalers, Inc. into a 500-store company.Operating under the names Roses, Maxway, Super Dollar, Popes, Eagles and Super 10, the businesses stretched across 14 states and employed well over 7,000 people. He developed a well-known reputation for turning retail companies around, and did so for 56 years until his retirement in 2005.

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Free enterprise hero

Pope’s financial success enabled him to become a major supporter of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he served on the Board of Trustees. This success also led to the establishment of the John William Pope Foundation which funds numerous charities and free market oriented organizations, most prominently the John Locke Foundation, one of our nation’s premier state public policy think tanks. Despite his untimely death in 2006, his legacy lives on in his foundation. According to Mr. Pope, the secret to his success was no secret-he just worked harder than the competition.