Parker's Kitchen might still build on Aiken's Whiskey Road

Sep. 12—The plan to build a Parker's Kitchen along Aiken's Whiskey Road may not be dead after all.

John Rudolfs, chief development officer for the Savannah-based company, told the Aiken Standard that Parker's Kitchen is looking for another location along the road on Aiken's Southside.

"We're just going to look for a location in that corridor that will be successful and also meet the community's needs," Rudolfs said.

Parker's Kitchen proposed building a store at the corner of Whiskey Road and Stratford Drive, but Aiken City Council did not approve that plan.

Greg Parker, Parker's Kitchen CEO, said he took the concerns of residents seriously.

"I want to earn their business," Parker said. "I want to please them."

He said Parker's Kitchen wants to be a good neighbor to the Aiken community.

"We want to do something that's so great that people love it — they take their grandmother there, they take their kids there," Parker said.

Ruldolfs said finishing a Parker's Kitchen in the Aiken area so residents could see and experience the store would ease much of the concern.

Parker's Kitchen isn't a typical convenience store, Parker said. The company spends $7-10 million building each location, he said, and its chickens are never frozen and "everything pretty much is made in-house."

The company was named one of the top 10 gas stations for food in USA Today Readers' Choice earlier this year, the executive noted, and Parker's Kitchen was recently featured in Forbes and other publications.

"Our stores are beautiful and elegant," Parker said. "They're the best in the industry."

And he said the company has the best bathrooms in the industry.

Over the past six years, the company has given more than $30 million to the communities it serves, according to Parker.

"We give to the communities we're in in significant ways," he said.

Parker said the company opened a store in front of a large neighborhood a year ago despite objections from residents.

"A year later, they [the neighborhood association] called me in and presented me with a plaque and a thing about you've made such a difference in our community. It was a wonderful thing," he said.

If Parker's Kitchen finds a location along Whiskey Road, it would be the company's third in the Aiken area.

The Aiken City Council has already approved plans to build Parker's Kitchens on the former Dick Smith property west of Aiken and near the Zeus plant east of Aiken.

The Dick Smith property was demolished and construction has begun.

Rudolfs said the company could open that store in 200 days; Parker said he expected it to open sooner.

Parker said the company decided to move into the Aiken market because of the growth in the area.

"Aiken and the counties that are touching Augusta are on fire," Parker said.

The decision came after one of his friends, Andy Jones, sold his interest in several convenience stores in the area.

"I wasn't going to come here and plop on top of him," Parker said. "He sold out around a year and a half ago and we said let's add this to our mix."

Once Parker's Kitchen decides to build in a market, it usually opens several stores, Parker said. He said this is done to harness the power of advertising dollars and to allow its district managers to oversee eight stores within an easy driving distance.

The company is looking to expand from its base in Savannah west toward Aiken, north toward Myrtle Beach and southward to Jacksonville, Florida, Parker said. Parker's Kitchen plans to build 90 new stores within the next four years, he added, including 15 in the Myrtle Beach area.

"We just opened our second store in Georgetown, so we're marching our way up the coast," Parker said.

Aiken Standard reporter Bill Bengtson contributed to this story.