When developer Greg Parker, the mastermind behind 20-plus upscale convenience stores and several other commercial ventures, decided to expand his empire along the lines of a retail and office complex, he settled on Richmond Hill as a prime target.
Parker’s Square, located at the intersection of Highway 144 and Timber Trail Road, is nearing completion.
Its chandelier-encased tower, period lighting, elaborate landscaping and intricate architecture is all part of Parker's brand of development.
"We believe in the shopping experience and we pay attention to the details," Parker said. "We spend more money on lighting, landscaping and architecture than anybody that we compete with. Part of my inability to build things cheap is a sense of pride. I want to build something that my kids are going to be proud of or that the next generation is going to point to."
Two shops, Lemon Grass boutique and Flooring Unlimited, have already opened in the center. Scheduled to come to the center are a music store, a dry cleaning store, a utility payment office, a lighting store, a cell phone company, a fitness center and a catering business. An attorney’s office and realty company have already opened shop at the office complex, which sits behind the convenience store.
"We wanted to do something that was going to enhance the community and be long-term advantaged for the city."
Parker was the chairman of the master plan of the city of Savannah and is a self-proclaimed "passionate preservationist." He has restored many area historic properties and believes the bar should be raised a bit for future Richmond Hill development.
"If I have one piece of advice for the city of Richmond Hill, it would be to establish design guidelines," he said. "I have actually brought in Richmond Hill city council members to meet with Dawson-Wissmach (architectural firm he uses) to encourage them to do just. The same time that I was building this building, the city charged me with trying to come up with an architectural style that would be in the Ford vernacular. We got a book on Ford architecture and studied it to come up with our current design."
Parker said his frustrations with city design were due to the fact that, at the same time he was going the extra mile with his project, another commercial project was being erected with nothing but metal siding.
"My challenge to the city is let’s establish some design guidelines and let’s establish a master plan. I think that effective planning ensures a better product," he said.
Parker said his personal vision and philosophy is the backbone of his company, which has constructed laundry mats, self storage, car washes, markets and convenience stores in and around the Savannah area.
"It filters down. Whatever the CEO believes and embodies, it just goes down the line. When good enough is good enough - that’s when everything falls apart."
Parker built my first convenience store in 1975 in Midway off I-95. It was at that initial Midway store where Parker molded his methods and procedures that has brought him to where he is today.
"Even back then, we installed really expensive carpeting and paneled wall," Parker recalled. "It really impacted the look and feel of the place. That same basic core value of elevating the experience has permeated everything we’ve done since."
"I was inventing it," he continued. "I was learning to be entrepreneurial - figuring out solutions and making a lot of mistakes. It’s all about failure. One of my core values is called fast failure. The ideology of it is to get in it and do the best job you can with it. Throw the intellectual capital at it, throw the human and financial capital at it – if it’s good, you continue with it. If it’s not, then you move on. We’ve made a lot of mistakes, but we don’t make them again."
He went on to detail his vision for a future phase of Parker’s Square, which will entail just about double the current space, expanding the amount of both retail and office space to equal about 80,000 square feet.