Earning their stripes: Parker Line Striping marks 20 years in business this year

Christian R. Parker, owner of Parker Line Striping, Dekalb, and Brian M. Hess, director of national sales, in front of the business. The company is celebrating 20 years in business this year and is well positioned to continue positive national growth in the parking lot maintenance service industry. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago / NNY Business

Christian R. Parker, owner of Parker Line Striping, Dekalb, and Brian M. Hess, director of national sales, in front of the business. The company is celebrating 20 years in business this year and is well positioned to continue positive national growth in the parking lot maintenance service industry. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago / NNY Business

It started out as simply a means to an end. Or so he thought.

Parking lot striping was no more than a way for 18-year-old Christian R. Parker to earn some money in pursuit of his goal to become a professional musician.

His father, Arlin L. Parker, hailing from Kitchener, Ont., was a former All-American and New Jersey Devils hockey player who chose to settle in the quiet expanse of St. Lawrence County where he taught physical education and painted commercially during the summers.

He picked up a single Kelly Creswell line striper in 1966 as just one facet of his small-scale residential and commercial painting business in and throughout the Canton area. “Some guy just had a line striping machine and dad bought it,” Mr. Parker laughed.

Coupled with painting, the father-and-son team would do lines around town; a fair amount of work being done at the elder Mr. Parker’s alma mater, St. Lawrence University.

“It was just all part of the painting my dad was already doing,” Mr. Parker recalled. “I remember being 6 or 7 years old, holding the string with my brother as my dad painted beside it.”

He remembers his father telling him that doing this work could become very successful if he wanted to grow it. “And he was right,” Mr. Parker smiled.

He was given the antique Kelly and began striping on his own. By the summer of 1993, his workload had grown exponentially. So in April 1994, Mr. Parker decided to become official, and Parker Line Striping was born.

With a staff of just two others, Mr. Parker began to grow the business into Jefferson and Franklin counties, securing contracts with management companies that had properties across the state.

“That’s what really started to expand our growth,” Mr. Parker said.

His first big contract came in 1996 with the former Ames Department Stores. Unfortunately, the contract was canceled after the company went bankrupt in 2002.

“They were our largest customer at that point, so it definitely hurt,” Mr. Parker said.

After 10 years of learning the ins and outs of the business and instilling in his employees a good work ethic and drive for success, Mr. Parker set his sights on approaching large retail chains.

“I was confident that we had the people, quality and experience to back up our services,” Mr. Parker said.

So he started making a few phone calls.

In 2003, he reached out to Walmart and secured an in-person meeting with their facilities manager at the retail giant’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

“When I came home from that meeting, I had an email with a list of 40 Walmarts to stripe,” he said.

Mr. Parker had landed a gold mine of a contract with one of the largest big box chain stores in the world.

Parker Line Striping is now in its 11th year contracting with Walmart up and down the East Coast. The DeKalb-based company also does work for other chains such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, BJ’s and Walgreens. Walmart contracts alone total about 250 striping jobs each year.

“We’ve built at the right pace and have found our niche in the last couple years,” Mr. Parker said.

Parker Line Striping provides full-service parking lot maintenance solutions for parking lot owners. Clients range from commercial parking lots to retail chains, malls and strip malls, real estate developers, facility operations managers and paving contractors.

Specific services include parking lot striping, crack sealing, sealcoating, asphalt repairs and parking lot maintenance and planning services.

The company is a self-performing contractor, meaning that all services and equipment are internally sourced.

“We have all the equipment, supplies and personnel to do every job ourselves,” Mr. Parker said.

The company runs 75 line striping machines and 15 trucks from pick-ups to rack trucks to 24-foot box trucks. From its office in Dekalb Junction, three-man teams are sent out for two to three weeks to cover jobs from Maine to Virginia. Peak season is from March to November. During that time the company employs a staff of about 25.

And because its core business in the northeast is self-performing, it lends itself to stability, cost value and operational integrity.

“Companies want to see that we’re pursuing cost-saving measures,” Mr. Parker explained. “Cost savings that can be passed on their customers.”

As evidence, at his Dekalb Junction property, Mr. Parker erected a windmill that helps to generate power for his 10,000-square-foot office and 6,500-square-foot equipment building.

“We want to contribute to sustainability,” he said.

And from its southern office in Ocala, Fla., Parker Line Striping is able to continue its self-performing work throughout the Southeastern United States.

“We’re able to self-perform from New York to Florida,” Mr. Parker said. “We are in the process of rebranding and building an alliance network of qualified contractors.”

The vision is to build a network around the country with contractors who perform with the same quality controls, then hire them through existing contracts with retail chain stores.

“These large companies are often managing huge portfolios of properties,” Mr. Parker said. “They’re looking for someone to take on large territories.”

Parker Line Striping will essentially act as an agent and liaison between sub-contractors and national retail chains to source its parking lot needs at any of its locations around the country.

“We want to have national coverage, sourced with local experts,” he said.

Mr. Parker plans to unveil the new Parker Line Striping brand during the spring 2015 Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association Conference.

“We want to become a national parking lot management company,” he said.

And Mr. Parker is well on his way to making that dream a reality.

Brian M. Hess, national sales director for the company is leading the effort.

“Brian will be responsible for building our national sales and network base,” Mr. Parker said. His sales prowess will take him to every pocket of the United States, meeting face to face with potential clients, primarily property managers and facilities managers for big box chain stores.

Mr. Parker and Mr. Hess met through the industry in 2011 and had an almost immediate chemistry.

“Christian has a calm, focused demeanor and the entire company is well grounded under his leadership,” Mr. Hess said.

Parker Line Striping bases itself on the old school handshake model of doing business.

“We’re going to bring that same integrity to the national pavement space,” Mr. Hess said.

The company still does as much work in the north country as possible, often contracting with firms on Fort Drum.

“We have a local crew and love being local,” Mr. Parker said. “We have some of the most cutting-edge technology in the business and love to educate and share that knowledge locally. I love the quality of life here. I love the people.”

Born from from a 1966 Kelly Creswell line striper, Parker Line Striping is on an impressive trajectory for the national stage. It may not have been a stage that 18-year-old Mr. Parker had once dreamed of, but it’s a stage nonetheless.

“I still get to play in a band,” Mr. Parker laughed.

 

Grace E. Johnston is a staff writer and editorial assistant for NNY Magazines. Contact her at gjohnston@wdt.net or 661-2381.