Family Dollar: No plans to move workers now, but maybe later

Family Dollar told employees Monday there are no immediate plans to relocate any of the 1,400 people it employs at its Matthews headquarters in light of its planned acquisition by Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree. The two companies will operate largely as separate entities, executives said, even after the deal closes early next year.

But Family Dollar left the door open for later job relocations, and chief executive Howard Levine told employees the companies will seek to combine many behind-the-scenes functions.

“You know, it is very early in the process given that the ink is barely dry on the merger agreement that we signed last night,” Levine told employees during a conference call Monday morning. “In essence, what we are saying here is these two organizations will operate separately in a lot of ways, but where we can combine back office, logistics, IT and some of those things, I think there (are) opportunities for some synergy gains.”

Asked by the Observer about the deal’s effect on local employment, Family Dollar spokesman Averell Withers said in a statement: “Each company has a sizable corporate headquarters facility, and there are no plans for relocation out of Charlotte at this time. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to operate out of both locations.”

Dollar Tree announced Monday that it plans to buy Family Dollar in a deal valued at $8.5 billion, and the companies will seek to save $300 million a year by combining operations.

Central Avenue roots

Dollar Tree’s plan to acquire Family Dollar would mean the end of local control for a major employer founded in Charlotte more than 50 years ago.

Howard Levine’s father, Leon Levine, opened the first store in November 1959 in the 1500 block of Central Avenue. By 1971, the year Family Dollar opened its 100th store, Levine took the company public. It was worth $15 million at the time.

The company reached 500 stores in 1982 and 1,000 by 1985. As Wal-Mart kept opening more big-box stores, Levine put his smaller Family Dollar stores in neighborhoods and rural areas.

“That’s where our customers were – not on the interstate,” Leon Levine, now 77, told the Observer in 2009. Today the company has 8,200 stores.

The elder Levine, through the Leon Levine Foundation, has been a major philanthropic leader in the region. Levine retired from Family Dollar in 2003, and the Leon Levine Foundation is not associated with the company.

The Leon Levine Foundation has been a major supporter of UNC Charlotte, including the Levine Scholars program; Central Piedmont Community College, with the Levine campus in Matthews; Johnson C. Smith University; Queens University of Charlotte; and Wingate University, with the Levine College of Health Sciences. Leon Levine attended Wingate.

The Levine Jewish Community Center, the Levine Center for the Arts, the Levine Museum of the New South and the Levine Children’s Hospital also bear the family’s name.

A spokesman for the Leon Levine Foundation said Family Dollar’s sale would have no effect on the group’s activities.