Some roses stink: protesting Variety Wholesalers | Durham County | Indy Week
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Some roses stink: protesting Variety Wholesalers 

Protesters gathered near the intersection of Fayetteville Road and N.C. 54 in Durham. A Roses discount store, part of Art Pope's Variety Wholesalers company, is nearby.

Photo by Lisa Sorg

Protesters gathered near the intersection of Fayetteville Road and N.C. 54 in Durham. A Roses discount store, part of Art Pope's Variety Wholesalers company, is nearby.

About 25 people demonstrated against a chain of discount stores, including Roses, Super Dollar and Maxway, part of a company owned by State Budget Director Art Pope. The protest was organized by the NAACP and Democracy North Carolina, which criticized Pope for the low wages his company pays its workers.

Parent company Variety Wholesalers, whose headquarters is in Henderson, did not return calls from the INDY requesting wage information. However, on its website, the company notes the benefits include competitive pay, a 401(k) plan, health, dental and life insurance.

Walmart, also under fire nationwide for its employment practices, offers similar, and in some instances, better benefits; since it is a publicly traded company, that includes a stock purchase plan.

A millionaire, Pope has made his fortune as CEO of Variety Wholesalers, which was owned by his father, the late John William Pope.

Today, according to the Variety Wholesalers website, the Pope family's company owns 419 stores throughout the Southeast, and has expanded to the Midwest.

As the INDY reported in our 2010 story, "Let's go shopping with Art Pope," the company makes no secret that its target demographic is low-income communities with large minority populations, a "minimum 25 percent African-American population within five miles," and "median household income of $40,000 or less."

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