While most specialty retailers these days are hoping they can just hold on to the business they have (or at least some of it), Dale and Jimmy Parker have opened a third J. Parker Ltd. store, this one in Savannah’s historic district. “We couldn’t resist the opportunity,” Dale explains. “It’s a brand-new fabulous quarter-mile entertainment district with an upscale Marriott hotel (419 rooms with more to come), 12 restaurants, and three rooftop bars. It replaces an old power plant from the early 1900s that was shut down several years ago.” (Editor’s note: the original 1912 power plant has been restored, preserving the iconic twin smokestacks and brick exterior, repurposed for hotel rooms and mixed-use space. Estimates on the cost of the project range from $270-$400 million.)
Parker admits, however, that this was hardly an ideal time to open a store. “We had planned the store before the pandemic but of course the mall opening was delayed and delayed. It was completed a week before the shutdown so we did virtually no business in March, April, and May. Then business started up in the summer and ran ahead of plan in September (even with a few hurricane closures). So, we remain optimistic: weekend business has been good and the hotel will soon complete its final phase and open another 100 rooms. Savannah is a great walking city, especially downtown and the historic district. Tourism is a major factor, and now more than ever, local people shop local.” (Editor’s note: the project developer is a local businessman who wisely requested local stores owned and operated by local people.)
Dale explains that the original J. Parker (opened by Jimmy in 1972) was in Midtown in the Medical Arts shopping center. “We opened on Broughton about 15 years ago and closed Medical arts shortly after. We opened a second store in 2018, adding women’s, and our third here at Plant Riverside District this June.” Says Jim Sweeney from the Charlotte Mart who recently visited J. Parker’s new digs, “The Parkers have opened a wonderful store with a cobblestone front street entrance and a back entrance that spills out to the riverside. Within 100 yards of their store is parking, a boarding area for river cruises as well as a 500-room Marriott hotel.”
For those who wonder where Dale gets the energy to manage three stores, it should be noted that before she was a retailer, she spent 30 years as a high school basketball coach, retiring in 2015. “I’m used to working full steam, seven days a week,” she confides, adding that she gets some help these days from her daughter and stepson (shown here at the ribbon-cutting).
Driving menswear sales these days is sportswear, mostly knit shirts and shorts. Key brands include Hiltl, AG, Eton, 34 Heritage, Filson, Barbour, Johnnie-O, Stantt, and Peter Millar. A consistent top seller is always their store-logo blue crab golf shirts.
Advertising is of course a crucial component of J. Parker’s strategy: local magazines, TV, newspaper, and stepped-up social media have become increasingly important. “With three stores, it’s a lot of hard work,” Parker admits. “But I’m a very competitive person: there’s no way we’re not going to win.”