BIRMINGHAM –The Alabama Retail Association, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business, today recognized 18 outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses with operations in 29 Alabama cities and 16 states as Retailers of the Year. The presentations were made at The Club in Birmingham during the 2012 Retail Day Luncheon. This marked the 13th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Rodney King, owner of Mark’s Mart, a 74-year-old Selma grocery that has evolved into a destination specialty market, earned the Silver Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales $1 Million to $5 Million category. King’s parents, Odis and Clara King bought a failing business 32 years ago and made customer service their hallmark. King joined the family business 20 years ago and brought his penchant for fine meats and gourmet cuisine to the mix. A year ago, his son and nephew joined the seven-member team.
Sheryl Smedley, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, who nominated this third-generation family business for the award, lauded the King family for making Mark’s Mart on Dallas County Road 44 more than just a store. It is an attraction, she said.
From its beginnings as a traditional country store founded in 1938, Mark’s Mart now “attracts folks from all over the Black Belt, the nation” and the world, Smedley said in her nomination. Mark’s Mart offers such specialties as certified Black Angus and Kobe-style beef, local honey and desserts along with a vast wine selection. King’s signature item, the trademark Chicken Swirl™, represents his vision of taking foods customers would want to cook out with and creating a whole meal, Smedley said. Only-found-at-Mark’s-Mart items also include Cajun sausage stuffed pork chops, onion and cheese stuffed steak burgers and crab stuffed salmon swirls.
“Everything is handmade or homemade,” Smedley said. “The King family supports local charities, schools and churches with gift baskets created with ‘made-in-Selma’ items.” Another King signature is the age range of his seven employees – 16 to 90. King offers a place for high school students to get their first job and for retirees to supplement their retirement income.
“Our younger employee’s interest and enthusiasm has expanded our marketing reach and increased sales into age demographics previously underserved by our former advertising methods,” King said in his entry.
A faltering economy had no chance of slowing down Mark’s Mart annual sales. Last year, King saw an 8 percent increase in overall sales. The store now generates in a day what it generated in a month in the early 1980s when his parents first began the business, he said. “It is a testament to the work ethic and enthusiasm of our employees that despite adverse conditions, our overall sales crossed into the $2 million mark,” King wrote in his entry.
Mark’s Mark also is expanding beyond Selma. In July, an historic converted barn in Northport became the site of its second store.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Rodney King is a retailer of the year EVERY year to his customers, employees and the Selma and Northport communities.”
PHOTO PROVIDED BY ASHLEY CAROLINE JOHNSON, SELMA TIMES JOURNAL
MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 | 800.239.5423