North Carolina has a history of retail industry leadership that continues with large operators such as Lowe’s, Hendrick Automotive Group, Sonic Automotive and Tanger Factory Outlet Centers. Entrepreneurial success stories also abound, including Furnitureland South, Mast General Store and Shoe Show.
president | Family Fare
The retail chain dates to 1936 and operates more than 80 stores through franchises, mainly in eastern and central North Carolina. The Appalachian State University graduate, who is a former trustee at the Boone school, has a Duke University MBA. He previously worked for Shell Oil.
chair, president, CEO |
The Cato Corp
The UNC Charlotte graduate has been CEO of the family-controlled public company since 1999. His grandfather, father and uncle started the apparel retailer in 1946. It has more than 1,000 stores in 30 states.
president | Mast General Store
Cooper has been part of the retail chain since her parents, John and Faye Cooper, purchased the original Watauga County store in 1979. Her initial pay as an 11-year old was 25 cents an hour. The employee-owned company now has 11 locations in four states.
Pre-workday motivation: A good cup of coffee. And leading a company that makes a difference in so many ways in our communities.
Key to industry success: Creating a positive work environment. As a retailer, we stand apart for so many reasons. Each store has its own unique setting in a historic building in beautiful downtown or rural settings. They truly are destinations. The product mix is extraordinary. But the asset that sets us apart is our employees. They are knowledgeable, welcoming and approachable.
Best advice: Treat people with respect. Listen and learn from others. The new lessons we are all learning from the last two years are how to adjust to the new normal and how to pivot quickly. Coming into a workplace where we smile, laugh, learn, and grow together makes all the difference.
Three people to share a meal: Oprah Winfrey, Dolly Parton and Warren Buffett
Proud family accomplishment: My three children have kind hearts and are responsible young adults. I am one proud mom.
Favorite hobby: Tennis, concerts and serving on nonprofit boards.
Where to entertain a visitor: Stick Boy Bakery, Mast Store, lunch at Over Yonder, Grandfather Mountain and Grandfather Vineyard & Winery.
president, director | Sonic
Dyke joined the public company in 2005 and became president in 2018, and director in 2019. Prior to Sonic Automotive, he gained 10 years of experience at automotive retailer AutoNation. Sonic operates in 23 states with annual revenue topping $12 billion.
president, general counsel | N.C.
Retail Merchants Association
Ellen helps big and small retailers have influence in state affairs, having joined the group as general counsel in 1998. The Southern Pines native became president in 2012. He has a bachelor’s from Elon University and a Campbell University law degree.
Pre-workday motivation: A morning 5K by myself. It is where I think through what I am going to tackle that day.
Key to industry success: Surrounding yourself with great people and letting them do their jobs.
Best advice: Treat everyone with the same respect regardless of position.
Three people to share a meal: Robert Plant, Jack Nicklaus and Jim Valvano.
Proud family accomplishment: We believe in each other to our core.
Favorite hobby: Golf.
Where to entertain a visitor: The greenway in Wake Forest.
chair, president, CEO | Lowe’s
Since moving to the giant retailer in 2018 from the CEO post at JCPenney, he’s helped make Lowe’s more competitive with rival Home Depot. The University of Memphis graduate is a former top executive at Home Depot and Target who was named one of Barron’s “Top CEOs” in 2021.
chair, CEO | Flow Automotive
Owner of more than 45 dealerships that employ more than 1,700 people, Flow is an active civic leader in his home city and across the state. He chairs the Golden LEAF Foundation. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a Wake Forest University MBA.
president, CEO | Alex Lee
He’s part of the fourth generation of Georges to run Alex Lee, which owns the Merchants Distributors wholesale grocery business and Winston-Salem-based Lowes Foods supermarkets that together employ more than 10,000 people. The Notre Dame University accounting graduate joined the family business in 2006 and became CEO in 2014.
Pre-workday motivation: My family.
Key to industry success: Make the customer the focus of everything you do.
Best advice: It will be better in the morning.
Where to entertain a visitor: Lowes Foods.
president, CEO | Advance Auto
Greco became top executive at the 5,600-store retailer in 2016 after leading PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America snacks business. He has helped Advance become more competitive with rivals AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts. It reported a profit of $616 million on revenue of $11 billion in 2021.
CEO | Compass Group North America
Green has been CEO since 1999, having joined the United Kingdom-based food service giant business in 1987. The company employs 280,000 people in North America. Fortune magazine has rated Compass among the “World’s Most Admired Companies” for three straight years.
president | Food Lion
Ham took over as top executive at the 1,100-store, 82,000-employee chain in 2014 after working for owner Ahold Delhaize since 1988. She is a New York native and Cornell University graduate. The Shelby Report, an industry publication, named Food Lion its top Southeast retailer for 2021.
president, CEO | Furnitureland
Running the 1.3 million-square-foot store has been Harris’ life work. The business was started by his parents in 1969. More than 1,000 different brands are sold. The High Point University graduate is on advisory boards at his alma mater and First Citizens Bank.
Pre-workday motivation: I think about the blessings in my life and the opportunity to spend time with the ones I most care about. Coffee helps.
Key to industry success: Serving others and helping our clients create beautiful home interiors by offering the highest-quality products for the best value, supported by world-class logistics.
Best advice: Only you are responsible for how you react to every situation.
Three people to share a meal: Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson.
Proud family accomplishment: Their spirituality, love for one another and uncontrollable laughter together.
Favorite hobby: Spending time with my family, playing golf and working out.
Where to entertain a visitor: The world’s largest furniture store.
CEO | Hendrick Automotive Group,
Starting with a small shop in Bennettsville, S.C., the Warrenton native leads a $10 billion retailer with more than 10,000 employees at 93 dealerships and 21 collision centers in 13 states. He’s also an iconic NASCAR team owner, notching a record number of top-level series victories.
president, CEO | Ingles Markets
Lanning served as president of the 198-store supermarket chain for 13 years before adding the CEO title in 2016. The Western Carolina University graduate started at the family-controlled public company at 16 as a service clerk. Ingles has more than 26,000 employees.
president | Lowes Foods
Heading the chain of more than 80 stores since 2013, Lowe is a University of Houston graduate who previously worked at Walmart. In February, he opened a suburban Charlotte store that combines a traditional grocery with a food hall concept. Hickory-based Alex Lee owns the business.
CARLIE "MACK" MCLAMB JR.
owner, CEO | Carlie C’s IGA
His parents, Carlie and Joyce McLamb, formed the business in 1961 as a single country store in Johnston County. It now operates 27 groceries with more than 1,500 workers in eastern and central North Carolina. He’s a director of First Bancorp.
founder, CEO | Replacements, Ltd.
In 1981, the UNC Chapel Hill graduate and former state employee started his tableware business with one assistant after finding a hobby in thrifting and reselling items on consignment. Employment topped 400 in recent years. Page, who grew up on a farm near Greensboro, has for decades been a leading advocate for LGBTQ rights.
CEO | Belk
Patel joined Belk in 2016 as chief merchandising officer after serving in leadership positions at Kohl’s. He succeeded Lisa Harper as CEO last July, five months after the company owned by Sycamore Partners completed a bankruptcy reorganization. The chain operates about 300 stores in 16 states.
owner, CEO | Variety Wholesalers
The former state budget director and supporter of conservative causes oversees 380 Roses and other discount stores in 15 states. The graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University law school is on the UNC System Board of Governors and chairs his family’s John William Pope Foundation.
founder, CEO | Strickland Brothers
10 Minute Oil Change
Strickland founded his business in 2016 after stints with NAPA Auto Parts and Jiffy Lube. The business is named after his sons, Tate and Beckett. The company operates 60 corporate-owned shops and has franchised 27 locations with another 100 under development. He attended UNC Greensboro.
president | Shoe Show
Tucker’s parents, Robert and Carolyn Tucker, started the retailer in 1960 in Kannapolis. She became president in 2018 and now oversees a $1 billion-plus business with more than 1,150 stores in 40 states under such brands as Shoe Show, Shoe Dept. and Burlington Shoes.
president, CEO | Tanger Factory
Yalof. 59, succeeded Steven Tanger as top executive at the 36-center chain in January 2021 after working as president of rival Simon Premium Outlets. The George Washington University graduate leases space to more than 600 brand-name companies in 20 states and Canada.