Par Mar Hitting Its Stride

Marking its 51st year of serving customers, Par Mar Oil Co. is shoring up its market position with the recent opening of its 100th c-store.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

Located near the heart of the Ohio River, separating the neighbor cities of Parkersburg, W.Va. and Marietta, Ohio, Par Mar Oil Co. recently opened its 100th retail location. A benchmark by any business standards, it has been business as usual for the parent of Par Mar Stores convenience chain.

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A familiar retail presence in most of the communities where it operates, the Marietta-based c-store has been seeking out and capitalizing on more opportunities in the last two-and-a-half years.

Par Mar Stores was a 49-location convenience store chain at the end of 2015. In the last 30 months, the retailer has more than doubled its size. By any industry standard, those are significant strides.

THE 3 P’s
Brian Waugh, president of Par Mar Stores, said it attributes its progress to a few factors. No. 1 is its customers, closely followed by “people, planning and partners.”

“We couldn’t have reached 100 stores if it wasn’t for the work ethic of our people,” Waugh said. “We have a great blend of people who have been with us for more than 20 years, some that worked many years for other people who have now brought their talents to us, and of course some that are new to the industry. We also plan in advance to make sure all on the team are prepared for the new stores. Some new locations come on you pretty quickly though, so you still also have to be ready, when you need to be ready.”
Lastly, “we couldn’t have gotten to where we are without the support and relationships that we have with all of our vendor partners, particularly our grocery supplier, the H.T. Hackney Co.,” added Waugh.

The company’s expansion plans include its growing foray into West Virginia, marked by the opening of the c-store retailer’s 99th location—on Sissonville Drive in Charleston and its 100th location in the city of Bartow. The two new store openings will make 18 locations that Par Mar has added in 2018.

Broken down, the chain comprises 53 locations in West Virginia, 26 in Ohio, 20 in Pennsylvania and one in Kentucky. Par Mar Stores is an operating division of Par Mar Oil Co. Pittsburgh-based Croton Holding Co. acquired Par Mar Oil in 2016.

In the beginning of November 2018, Par Mar Stores will be operating 101 c-stores. Waugh’s team has been working on its newest 3,200-square-foot store for the last few months. The site offers more foodservice items than other Par Mar locations, including a Hunt Brothers Pizza offering, a coffee/cappuccino program, a notable beverage fountain and Slush Puppie machines.

Customers have come to expect more from the convenience chain, which has grown chiefly through acquisition. Many of the company’s c-stores have a unique identity, especially when it comes to food offerings that have come through those acquisitions.

“We didn’t look to change them; we looked to build off what we acquired,” Waugh said. “We have many different offerings, whether it’s a location that has a restaurant with a menu for made-in-house items, or locations that provide food throughout the day with their local specialties (supplied by Brown Foodservice). We cut meat at some locations. We team up with Hackney Foodservice, Hunt Brothers or Orion in some locations. One of our stores in Morgantown has a Par Mar Kitchen, with an ordering kiosk.”

That’s not to mention the company’s robust roller grill program.

AT ITS ROOTS
Par Mar Oil Co. was established in 1967 as a full-line petroleum jobber by Joseph Grow of Parkersburg, W.Va. and James Hollister of Marietta, Ohio. In search of a name, Grow and Hollister decided on Par Mar—Par, an abbreviation connecting to the city of Parkersburg and Mar—for Marietta.

Waugh said there’s no mistake that the roots from which the c-store company sprung have grown stronger throughout the years.

“The Parkersburg and Marietta communities are very important to us, as that’s where our name comes from and where a lot of our employees live as well,” Waugh said. “At the same time, all of the communities in which we operate are important to us as we look to make a difference and support our local schools and communities every day.”
Looking ahead, the company will begin building a new c-store with a quick-service restaurant that will open in 2019. The company currently is a franchisee for 13 Subways, one Quiznos Restaurant and one A&W Restaurant.

LOYALTY FOLLOWS
Not only is Par Mar Stores growing its operational footprint, the chain is intent in growing its connection to customers. One way has been through its Par Mar Rewards Card. The c-store uses the loyalty program to encourage its customers to buy items that they are loyal to, running multiple “Buy 6, get the 7th free” campaigns throughout the calendar year.

“We also have monitors at the front of our locations that are constantly showing the customers the monthly promotions that we have,” Waugh said. “We team up with (area) grocery stores to reward both their and our customers.”

Waugh said the retailer will be adding a company app, which will be introduced in early 2019. The app will allow users to quickly see daily promotions and special offerings, and enable the c-store to better engage with customers.

Increasingly, Par Mar Stores is relying on social media to connect more with its customer base, as well as gaining additional insights on consumer preferences.

“Facebook, Twitter and all of the review sites allow us to show what we have and also to change what needs to be changed based off the feedback that we receive,” Waugh said. “Our goal is to provide what our customers are looking for; we base what our offerings are on the feedback that we receive on what we offer, or what we need to offer.”

As Par Mar Stores continues to cultivate a stronger following on both sides of the Ohio River and beyond, the future appears to be bright indeed.

“If we grow the next five years, like we have the last two-and-a-half years, then it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Waugh said.