Coming up roses: the Vance County seat of Henderson, perhaps best known as the hometown of broadcast icon Charlie Rose, struggles to prepare its children for a fast-changing world.

Author:Mims, Bryan


Spend some time in Henderson, and chances are good that you'll pick out a Rose. It's a firmly rooted surname around here. Do a White Pages search online, enter the name "Rose," and you'll get more than 1,800 results, nothing to sneeze at in a city of some 15,300 that isn't sharing in the growth of the booming Triangle that is only 40 minutes away.

During World War II, a tobacco farmer named Charles Peete Rose Sr. ran a general store near the town's railroad tracks. In January 1942, before he shipped off to war for two years, he and his wife, Margaret, celebrated the birth of their only child, a boy. The family lived in rooms above the store, and young Charlie, sharing a bedroom with his grandmother, would drift off to the sound of train whistles firing his imagination, his wanderlust. Oh, the places he would go.

He rose to be Henderson's most famous Rose, earning his fame by interviewing presidents, dictators, billionaires, rock stars, actors, great thinkers, star athletes, even notorious killers.

Charlie Rose, host of an interview program on PBS and co-anchor of "CBS This Morning," told Fortune magazine in 2009 that he remembers his childhood in Henderson longingly, working in his dad's general store at age 7, reading biographies by candlelight. Rose returns periodically to the 500-acre farm outside nearby Oxford that he uses as a retreat.

A young entrepreneur named Paul H. Rose, not closely related to Charlie Rose's family, opened Roses 5-10-15 Cent Store in downtown Henderson in 1915. By 1921, he had 11 stores; by 1929, he was opening one store a month across the Carolinas and Tennessee, initially in small towns. Roses is still headquartered in Henderson but is no longer owned by the Rose family. In 1997, it was sold to Variety Wholesalers Inc., a family-owned business that operates about 175 stores, mostly in the Southeast (page 34). Variety Wholesalers is the second-largest employer in Vance County, behind the public-school system.

You can still see the building that housed the original Roses store on Garnett Street, Henderson's main drag. It's a three-story brick structure with the words "P.H. Rose Building" on top. Variety Wholesalers uses the site as its corporate office.

Along Garnett you'll see trim buildings of brick--red-brown brick, beige brick, white brick--and the occasional stone building embellished with Greek columns. The Henry Denkins County Office Building and the old First National Bank look...

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