Par-Mar Stores mark 50th anniversary

Photo Provided The first Par Mar convenience store was No. 7 on Ohio 7 south of Marietta. The first Par Mar store opened in 1979.

MARIETTA — Ask the oldest employees at Par-Mar Stores what makes working there so special, and they have the same answer: customers and the people they work with and for whom they work.

“It’s a family attitude,” Sherry Offenberger, who has 23 years of service at the company which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, said.

“That’s a really good one,” said Tara McLean, 16 years of service, who said the customers were a reason why it’s nice to work at Par Mar. “That would have been my second pick.”

The Par Mar Oil Co. was established in 1967 as a full-line petroleum jobber by Joseph G. Grow of Parkersburg and James L. Hollister of Marietta. “Par” is for Parkersburg and “Mar” is for Marietta.

Par Mar Oil, with 3 full-time employees, with its first affiliation with Amoco, provided oils, greases, gasoline, diesel fuels, heating oils and other petroleum products to commercial, industrial and consumer clients. The first convenience store opened in 1979 on Ohio 7 south of Marietta, which is called Par Mar No. 7.

Photo Provided A Par Mar convenience store, the former Shop ‘n Save, is where Holl’s Chocolates is today on Grand Central Avenue in Vienna.

How the company got into the convenience store business started when James Hollister, then the president of the company, left town for a business trip. His oldest son, William C., had long tried to convince dad to get into the convenience store side of the gasoline business, but his father said no.

With his father out of town, William Hollister got a loan of $11,500 and the convenience store division began. William Hollister purchased his father’s and his brother’s, James A. Hollister, interests in the company in 1988 when its sales were greater than $30 million and the company employed more than 125 people.

The company changed its name to Par Mar Stores in 1987, but remains an operating division of Par Mar Oil Co. It grew into more than 50 convenience stores with 16 Quick Serve restaurants and more than 700 employees.

In April 2016, the company was sold to the Croton Holding Co., a Pittsburgh-based convenience store operator. The chain has grown to more than 80.

William Hollister chose Croton for a reason, said Jeralynne Offenberger, 18 years, who is in charge of regulatory and brand compliance for the company. She and Sherry Offenberger are distantly related.

Hollister wanted to make sure the employees of Par Mar wouldn’t be negatively impacted by a new owner, according to Jeralynne Offenberger.

Croton Holding is owned by Milo Ritton, who graduated from Parkersburg High School.

“Par Mar has come a long way since its origin of a local oil company to now a convenience store chain with Quick Service Restaurants in four states,” Brian Waugh, company president, said.

“There is no way that Par Mar could have made it for the last 50 years without the support of our customers and employees and we thank them for that,” Waugh said. “Together we look forward to meeting the needs of our customers for the next 50 years.”

The family attitude extends beyond the employees, Jeralynne Offenberger said. The company is involved with the Make a Wish Foundation and the Children’s Home Society, has a program providing Christmas gifts for children and a college scholarship program for anyone living in Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, each store will have raffles for $50 store gift cards beginning on Monday through Oct. 29. A getaway package will be given away at the end of the promotion and special sale prices will be in effect throughout the period, Jeralynne Offenberger said.

While 23, 18 and 16 years is a long time, they are not the oldest, or longest tenured as they would say, in the company.

Gloria Rinard has 36 years, the longest-tenured in the company, and Fara Ball has 34 years.

Rinard started as a cashier on the evening shift at Sistersville, became a store manager and is now a district supervisor. She’s done other things, too.

“From the ground up,” she said.

Sherry Offenberger went to work for Par Mar because she wanted to buy a new car.

“I’ve done just about everything,” she said.

Ball, who is the price book administrator for the company, also started in a store, at No. 7 on Ohio 7. She was a cashier.

Technology has made things easier, especially when changing the price per gallon at the pumps and on the signs, they said.

“And we thought we were going high tech when we got beepers,” Sherry Offenberger said.

Technology continues to change how things are done, said Jeralynne Offenberger. An example is Mobile Pay, an app which activates a pump through a smart phone and payment is made.

“You tell the app what pump you’re on,” she said.