Parker’s, a convenience store company headquartered in Savannah has recently expanded adding four new stores in Walthourville, Wayne County, Pooler and Bluffton.
The growth is part of the company’s ambitious growth strategy.
Parker’s is in the middle of a five-year plan to exceed $1 billion in annual sales and is consistently trending ahead of goals. The company currently has three stores under construction and 30 sites in process in Georgia and South Carolina.
The successful company founded by Greg Parker got its start in Liberty County when Parker opened his first store in Midway in 1976.
“At that point we were with Amoco Oil Company and there were designated territories you could develop and that is the only place we had in our territory where we could build a store and be able to sell Amoco gas that intersected I-95,” Parker said during an interview at his Savannah Corporate office. “Back then...I was my only employee. “I pumped the gas. I cleaned the windshields. I checked the air in the tires. I would check the radiators for antifreeze and their brake fluids and all those things. And I had a little restaurant in that store. So if somebody wanted to eat I would wash my hands go in the back and cook their hamburger or Reuben sandwich or whatever it was...It was a very different time.”
Parker said the traffic on I-95 was not busy as it is today. But if needed he also answered calls to render assistance for those stranded or in need.
“I had a wrecker and if I got a call…I would lock the door of the store and go get the car,” he said.
From those humble beginnings Parker’s has grown to 49 convenience stores across the region. New stores are set to begin construction on Dean Forest Rd. in Savannah as well as in Glennville, and on Lady's Island, S.C.
“We are very data driven as a company,” Parker said adding his employees stay with the company long term and are innovative. “I would say there are few companies more data driven than we are. And the amazing thing is that I have people that have been with me since I started that Midway store. My chief operating officer started with me when she was 15…my chief information officer started with me in 1977…both of them worked at that store. Liberty County and Midway was the beginning. My second store was actually in Hinesville…it was on Main Street.”
Parker embraces technology and believes in giving the customers what they want. It started with something as simple as a fountain drink.
“We are very much known for our fountain…we are the people that started having cheap cost, chewy ice fountain drinks,” he said. “We were the first people to do it. Nobody had chewy ice before we did chewy ice. There was no such thing as a fountain to get a soft drink out of. I remember going to the Coca-Cola Company in Hinesville and try to convince them to let me have dispense beverage. And they fought me on it. I finally got permission to have a fountain where you could go in and get a drink without having to get a bottle of coke. That was even before canned cokes.
Parker said customers also wanted a great cup of coffee so the team set out to make sure they could offer the best. “We found these machines…these German made machines,” he said noting the machines offer beans to cup coffee.
Parker’s purchased the machines, at a cost of $9,000 apiece.
“It is a significant investment,” Parker said. “But we decided we wanted to make that investment...We wanted to be the place for people to customize what they want…so people can have the most robust cup of coffee.”
Those meticulous attention to details is what Parker said sets his company apart from the rest.
“We’ve grown at 20-24 percent year on year for 16 straight years,” Parker said. “That’s unbelievable. That amount of change is believable if you are a technology company or you’re a logistics company or a warehouse or wholesaler, but for a bricks and mortar business….I don’t know if anybody else has done it.”
The store in Walthourville is on the corner of Airport Road and Highway 84. The new store in Wayne County, which includes a truck stop, is located on Highway 84 across from Rayonier.
“We are continuing our aggressive growth strategy, expanding into key markets throughout the region,” Parker said. “Our customers love our emphasis on ‘fast, fresh and friendly’ and our commitment to giving back to every community where we do business through our Fueling the Community charitable giving program.”