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SAVANNAH, Ga. — Twelve days may not seem like a lot of time. But for The Parker Cos., operator of Parker’s convenience stores, it was all the time needed to remodel Parker's Market Urban Gourmet — the company's flagship location — and transform it into a foodservice oasis for local residents and visitors.
The Parker's Market remodel is just one of many ways the company is growing strategically and responding to the evolving needs of its customers, Greg Parker, president and CEO of The Parker Cos., told Convenience Store News. The remodel is a calculated step in Parker's five-year plan, which is to exceed $1 billion in annual sales. The five-year plan was announced during Parker's 40th anniversary in 2016.
Parker, a Georgia native, opened Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet in 1999 to deliver the company’s "Fast, Fresh & Friendly" brand promise to customers through fresh food and the ultimate convenience.
"At the time, there was no 24/7 retail option for convenience items, freshly prepared foods, gourmet foods, fine wine, craft beer and creative gifts. I knew there was a need to open an upscale, 24/7, grab-and-go experience in Savannah, featuring a market with prepared foods," he recalled.
Today, Parker’s Market is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Residing in a restored 1899 Mediterranean-style building located at 222 Drayton St. in the heart of Savannah’s National Landmark Historic District, Parker’s Market has been featured in USA Today and named the No. 4 best restaurant in Savannah on TripAdvisor.
"Earning accolades from TripAdvisor is especially meaningful to us at Parker’s because that honor comes from our customer base," the chief executive said. "… [It] is a grassroots vote of confidence from our customers who choose to go online and rave about our hot deli offerings — from our award-winning crab stew to our delicious chicken tenders made with hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken breast."
Still, a remodel of the store had been in sight for some time, according to Parker, who noted the location only underwent one other major remodel in the fall of 2007. With spring traffic just around the corner and with January trending as a quieter month, the retailer decided now was the right time for a remodel, knowing it would have minimal effect on customers and local staff. During the remodel, staff were offered vacation days or the option to relocate to a different store — whichever their preference.
Although the core design and layout of Parker’s Market has remained the same over the years, the company has consistently redefined and expanded its product selection based on consumer demand and customer preferences. One way of doing this is by analyzing SKUs to determine which products are popular and which are less popular, and adjusting its inventory accordingly. When it came to the store remodel, this practice remained tried-and-true.
"Parker’s Market is an evolving concept, in terms of its aesthetics, design and product mix," Parker articulated. "I agree with Steve Jobs that it’s important to understand the changing desires of consumers and to anticipate their needs."
By listening to its customers, the retailer has always been determined to carry the optimal mix of retail items. Evaluating the SKUs and services of Parker's Market before the remodel revealed that the store had too much space dedicated to wine and gifts, and not enough space for packaged beverages and prepared foods. Parker’s customers were also looking for more healthy options.
Armed with this knowledge, the Parker’s Market remodel has introduced a full-service salad bar — a recent trend popping up at more and more c-stores — that has more than 30 toppings and homemade salad dressings. A hot panini press has also found residency at Parker’s Market, offering a selection of specialty flatbread sandwiches complete with a sauce and condiment bar of 30-plus fixings.
Taking a walk on the sweeter side, Parker’s Market expanded its bakery case with a variety of freshly made cookies, bagels, muffins, brownies, and more.
To cleanse their palate, customers have a bevy of beverage choices via Parker’s Market’s expanded selection of fountain and frozen drinks, including milkshakes and specialty bottled beverages like artisan juices, craft sodas and cold-brew coffees.
As part of the retailer's strategy to offer more of what customers are looking for, the executive decision was made to remove the growler station at Parker’s Market. "Sales at the growler station didn’t justify the space devoted to it at Parker’s Market. We decided to make our packaged beer more accessible with reach-in, doorless coolers, and to focus more on the craft beer category," the CEO explained to CSNews.
Beyond its product offerings, the interior of Parker’s Market also received a new, innovative look. With strategic aesthetic changes to the store’s layout to make customers’ experience at the store more convenient, the checkout area was removed and replaced with a queue line for impulse items. The retailer also expanded the kitchen; replaced coolers; ordered custom-made equipment for optimal freshness and quality; replaced fixtures; and upgraded the store’s lighting. The remodeled look was finished off with retiled walls, porcelain brick, flatiron accents, and Mediterranean-style tile throughout the store.
When asked if customers can expect to find another Parker’s Market opening in the future, Parker assured CSNews that this store is a one-off for the retailer.
"This store has always been a unique concept for Parker’s, and we intend to keep it that way," he expressed.
Ralph Kuhn Construction served as the general contractor for the renovation project, and Rethink Design created the interior design and concept. Additional subcontractors included Custom Cabinets, J.P. Tile and Hardwood, Jack Armstrong Painting and Floors, Hudson Plumbing, and Wilson Electric.
Parker’s operates 48 convenience stores throughout southeast Georgia and South Carolina. The company was recently awarded Best Original Design Honorable Mention in the 2016 Convenience Store News Store Design Contest.
Click on the image above to go inside the newly remodeled Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet.