The convenience, products and services of Par Mar stores have gotten closer to home in recent weeks for Charleston residents and visitors.
The second of Charleston’s two new Par Mar stores held a soft opening for the public on Friday, Aug. 30, at 841 Washington St., on the West Side. The first location, on Charleston’s East End, opened in mid-July.
Par Mar Company President Brian Waugh attended the Aug. 30 opening event to welcome West Side patrons.
“This makes Store 116 for us,” he said. “The [original Par Mar] company was bought out three years ago. We had 49 stores at the time and we’ve added 67 stores in the last three years.
“In this market, we’ve added stores in Shadyside, St. Albans, Sissonville, Nitro, Belle, Marmet and South Charleston, all within the last three years,” Waugh said. “A lot of them were former 7-Eleven locations like this one was, but we didn’t have a presence in downtown Charleston.”
He said Par Mar purchased the properties on the West Side and where the one-time Shop & Go was located at 1503 Washington Street, E. Both have been remodeled thoroughly — with the East End location bringing back the Amoco brand for its gasoline pumps and products.
“This [West Side] location is branded with BP,” Waugh explained, “but the East End one will be branded with Amoco. Amoco pulled out of Charleston about 20 years ago. BP bought Amoco several years ago, and they’re bringing the brand back.”
Waugh said the reimaging efforts for both of the locations started in early May and are still underway, with new signage and other finishing touches in progress. The 7-Eleven on the West Side had been shuttered since December 2016, he said, and the property the new Par Mar is replacing has been remodeled completely.
“There’s no doubt we’ve been blessed enough to grow and expand our marketing area in the last three years, whether it be West Virginia, Southeast Ohio or Western Pennsylvania,” Waugh said. “We’ll continue to look for areas where we think we can come in and fit a need for a community and also be able to prosper as well.”
Community involvement is also a component of Par Mar’s operations, he said.
“We’re heavily involved in schools,” Waugh said. “If you go around the ball fields and see that we don’t have a sign on the field, it’s probably because we haven’t been asked to put one up. We’re proud supporters of the Children’s Home Society. We have our own scholarship program; last year, we gave out 25 scholarships to high school seniors in our marketing area as well. So, we try to come into the communities we have and be good partners but also try to support our schools, our employees and our customers, because there’s no way we could do it without them.”
Bryan Brennan, the manager of the East End Par Mar, pitched in to help with operations during the first weekend of the West Side location’s opening.
“The response this morning from the very first customer who walked through the door was, ‘I am so glad you all reopened this.’ It has been nothing but positive. We’re excited about being in the neighborhood, and I look forward to working with the neighbors and local businesses and the people and just taking care of them,” Brennan said.
Bobby Smith is the supervisor of the 15 Par Mar stores in the Kanawha Valley. “I’m sure there’ll be more [Par Mar stores] to come,” Smith said. “This company is run very well. Everybody’s like family within the company.”
Par Mar stores are an offshoot of the Par Mar Oil Company, which was founded as a full-line petroleum jobber by Joseph G. Grow of Parkersburg and James L. Hollister of Marietta, Ohio, in 1967. The name was a mashup of the names of the neighboring cities divided by the Ohio River.
The first Par Mar convenience store opened in 1979 in Ohio, launched by Hollister’s oldest son, William C. (Bill) Hollister. In January 1988, Bill Hollister bought the ownership interest of his father and brother. To concentrate on the convenience store division, Bill Hollister sold all of the other Par Mar operating entities.
Par Mar was sold to a Pittsburgh-based company, Croton Holdings, in April 2016. With the addition of the Charleston locations, the Par Mar chain employs more than 950 people in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
Originally from Logan, Waugh lives in Charleston and has been the Par Mar president since 2016.