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Hot Dish: Parkers opening new location on Arlington

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The new Parker's Barbecue on Arlington Boulevard.

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Holly West

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Parker’s Barbecue Restaurant wants its customers to feel like they’re among family, not just for warm family dinners and fun holiday parties, but when things get tough, too.

Co-owner Billy Parker said one night, a group came into Parker’s at 8:20 p.m., just 10 minutes before closing. Despite irritation from some employees, including the high school student who had to wait on the group of almost a dozen people, Parker insisted the group be served. 

After talking to them, he discovered it was a church group that had just come from Vidant Medical Center, where one man’s wife had been airlifted after having a stroke in Morehead City. 

“They came to Parker’s Barbecue that night, all 10 or 12 of them, and the reason why they were there was because they were getting ready to go back to the hospital and they were trying to decide if they were going to take her off life support that night,” Parker said. “And they were doing it in our restaurant. They were making that decision in the restaurant at 8:30 at night.” 

Parker recounted the incident at a training meeting Tuesday at the new Parker’s location at 1801 E. Arlington Blvd. The location, which opens at 10 a.m. today, is the third Parker’s Barbecue location in Greenville. The first was opened on Memorial Drive in 1971 by Parker's father and grandfather. A Greenville Boulevard location followed in 1986.

The new location will have a drive-through and the same menu as the other two restaurants. It will also keep the same hours: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week. 

Throughout the years, Parker said one thing has remained the company’s focus — showing God’s love through serving others. 

“Does Parker’s want to be successful? Yes. Do we want to serve the best chicken and barbecue and sides in town? Absolutely,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it can’t be about how many chickens we sold on a football game day or how many pounds of barbecue go out on Mother’s Day. Because, at the end of our lives, and this is what my father and grandfather and uncle have always instilled in the family, all we have is the impact we’ve had on people.”

Parker has emphasized those values to his employees as part of the training process for the new location. He’s getting help from his management team, who have worked at Parker’s for years.

Assistant Manager Clarence Clemons has worked his way through the company since being hired to help unload and prepare hogs at the Memorial Drive location 4½ years ago. He said the family atmosphere has always been apparent to him.

“It’s a good company to work for because they see your work,” he said. “It’s not like a lot of these chains around here where you don’t see the owner. It’s a big family-oriented company.”

He said he was grateful to be asked to be the assistant manager for the new location, and he hopes to instill the enthusiasm he’s seen from the Parkers in his employees.

“You come in with a good attitude and it’s contagious,” he said. “If you get under a good manager or you get under a good assistant manager, you’re going to be better.” 

In addition to encouraging good attitudes, Parker’s provides support for employees and customers through a corporate chaplain. Chaplain Gerson Torres meets with anyone who needs him. 

“That’s the meat of it, just knowing an employee has the opportunity to speak with someone who’s not going to judge them, is going to be there for them in their time of need,” he said. “With family members, if there’s a sickness, if they’re having suicidal thoughts, if there’s depression, if there’s anxiety, if there’s stress, we talk through it.”

Parker’s extends Torres’ services to customers, too, something Torres said is rare among corporate chaplains. He contacts every person who submits a prayer request in the boxes at each restaurant and makes hospital visits. His photo hangs in the restaurants and employees can refer people to him if they need someone to talk to.

Since Parker and his wife, Callie, decided to hire Torres five years ago, Parker said Torres has led 80 employees, employees’ family members and customers to Christ.

Torres, who is contracted through Corporate Chaplains of America, has also provided counseling services to some customers, including a couple that submitted a prayer request in one of the boxes.

“They sat at table 13 at the Memorial Drive store and he did a marriage counseling session with her and her husband,” Parker said. “They did a marriage counseling session in the dining room at Parker’s Barbecue. How crazy is that?”

William Torres, manager of the Arlington Boulevard location, said the same standards by which Parker’s has always operated, in regards to both food and customer service, will be followed in the new location.

“Even though this is a new location, we’re going to do the same thing we do at number one and number two: treat everybody like family.” 

Contact Holly West at hwest@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.