If you ask Patrick Parker about how the Golden Isles became his home, he’ll tell you he wasn’t lucky enough to be born here, but he was smart enough to move here. But it was not by chance that he came to raise a family and build successful businesses in Glynn County. He knew well how special the Golden Isles was after spending summers and countless weekends with his grandparents, aunts, and uncles on St. Simons Island when he was a child. “We moved around a good bit in the late 1950s and early ’60s,” Parker said. “But we eventually settled in Vidalia, where I went to high school. We would come down and spend the summers at East Beach. I just always loved Gould’s Inlet and the beach.”

Parker was lucky enough to be born into a family with deep roots in the Isles, roots that go back 90 years to 1931 when his grandparents bought property on St. Simons Island and opened several businesses over the years. That is the same year his mother, Edith Cofer Parker, was born. She was one of six children and had three sisters and two brothers. Back in those days, his grandfather owned a business just south of what is now Redfern Village, as well as a gas station in the village where Iguana’s Seafood is today. His uncles owned businesses where Southern Soul Barbecue, the Trupp-Hodnett building, and Beachcomber now sit. His grandfather also owned The Golden Isles Hotel next to the pier that was his family’s headquarters when visiting from Vidalia before his grandmother moved to East Beach. His mother would tell Parker stories about a bygone era when she and her childhood friends would jump from the pier and swim to Jekyll Island, something he still can’t fathom today. “The thought of my 90-year-old mom jumping from the pier and swimming over to Jekyll is kind of crazy,” Parker said.

What’s not crazy is Parker’s dedication to a hands-on approach to running his stores. The family’s history in Coastal Georgia and Patrick’s own commitment to the Glynn County community led him to open his first Parker’s convenience store on St. Simons Island in 1988 near the Village. It was on Ocean Boulevard, where Hildy’s Pizza is today. Throughout the 1990s, Patrick expanded the business, opening stores around Glynn County. There are now 11 stores in Glynn, McIntosh, Liberty, and Appling counties, and each is operated with the same founding principles of the first store: family, community, and people matter.

The Parker’s store at the corner of Mallery Street and Ocean Boulevard in the Pier Village opened in 2001 on property Parker bought in 1996, the same year he moved his family and all business operations from Vidalia to the Golden Isles. That store has become a village staple during the past 20 years and is an example of the type of convenience store he likes – one with fresh, upscale food options, eco-friendly products, and that is fast and simple to navigate.

While so many other convenience stores are owned by larger companies, Parker takes pride in his hands-on operation of Parker’s stores, saying it keeps him grounded and connected to the place he loves so much. There’s nothing like seeing his customers and employees face to face, Parker says. “The best part of my job is actually being in the stores,” he added. “A couple of days each week I go around and visit all the stores. Those are the best days, getting to ride around Glynn County and talk to everyone.”

To Parker, his employees and customers are part of the family. One look at the shelves behind his desk and it is clear that family is paramount. Dozens of photos show generations of smiling faces. Color pictures show his two daughters, Ava and Isabel, his son Jack, and his wife, Dana. Black and white photos show his parents, uncles, and grandparents on St. Simons Island when true beach cottages were the norm. The display illustrates his deep connection to the Golden Isles. This is home. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be. “I really can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Parker said. “My aunts and uncles had lots of kids, so there have been a lot of my mom’s family around here for a long time. And now we’ve raised a family here,” Parker said. “We are so thankful to have the opportunity to live here and work here, and we try to give back to the community.”

One of the most successful and popular programs Parker’s stores use to pay it forward are the Pump Perks Cards customers can sign up for to save up to 10 cents per gallon each time they get gas. That’s a win-win for the business and the customer because it is set up so both sides save money, Parker said. With the business savings, Parker wanted to create what he called a win-win-win situation, so on the first Wednesday of every month, one penny of the cost of each gallon Perks members pump is donated to a local school of the card-holder’s choice. “We want the people in the community to benefit from the program,” Parker said. And the donations add up quickly. A few times each school year, Parker’s provides those donations to the schools in grand style with an oversized check presentation.

Parker takes the 90-year family legacy of giving back seriously. While sitting in his office overlooking the boats docked at Morningstar Marina and the St. Simons Sound, Parker named off the top of his head St. Simons Land Trust, Firebox Initiative, Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation, College of Coastal Georgia Foundation, Coastal Georgia Historical Society, Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce and Christ Church Frederica as just some of the organizations his family and businesses have contributed to over the years. But there are plenty more. “If there’s a fun-run or a golf tournament or something, chances are, we probably have supported it at some point in time,” he said. “Supporting the good works in the community is very important to us. We’re very cognizant of the fact that we live in a great place, and anything we can do to help different organizations doing good works, we want to do.” In addition to supporting nonprofits, Parker hopes to be part of a new wave of economic development to bring more good jobs and affordable housing to the county’s mainland areas.

Parker is proud of his work and the legacy of giving back he has the privilege to continue. At 63, he has considered retirement, but only briefly. He quickly concluded he was not ready. There are still causes to which to contribute, people to meet, and a community to serve. As is his focus when running his business, Parker wants to help however he can, not because it serves his businesses or to bolster the family name, but because Parker’s pays it forward. “We don’t want to sit on the sidelines. We want to be active and engaged in our community,” Parker said. By demonstrating this dedication and commitment, he can also be proud of the legacy he will leave.

This article originally appeared in Elegant Island Living on December 29, 2021.