(Photo: Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily)
Howell businessman Joe Parker thriving in community
Latest move caps nearly 30 years of investments in Livingston County
Joe Parker never went to college, but he always worked extremely hard. And he doesn't stop until he gets the job done.
It's paid off.
The Howell resident owns C & B Machinery, which sells disc-grinding machines all over the world. He owns Heart of Howell, a three-story downtown business hub, and the trendy 2FOG's Pub in its basement and several other Livingston County businesses besides.
"I didn't have the money and I didn't have the education, but I had the time," Parker said of his humble beginnings. "I had good mechanical aptitude (and) had tools.
"I was too dumb and young to know I couldn't do something," he added.
Since moving to Howell in 1989, Parker and his family - doing business as Howell Land Development, Howell Investments and Allen Parker Investments - have turned three commercial buildings on the northeast corner of Grand River Avenue and Walnut Street into the Heart of Howell, opened 2FOG's Pub and helped launch Frontal Lobe, a second business hub. Frontal Lobe is now owned by Bada Bing, a firm with ties to his family.
This August, Parker moved C & B, the fruit of his labor since 1981, from Livonia to Green Oak Township, capping nearly three decades of investments in the county.
Parker, his wife, Becky, and their two daughters, Courtney and Brooke, celebrated C & B's grand opening with friends, employees and local officials earlier this month. U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester Hill, attended the event.
Parker's accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. He and Becky in September were named grand marshals of the Fantasy of Lights Parade.
"Howell and Livingston County are fortunate that Joe and his family are making such major investments in our community," said Pat Convery, president of the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce. "Re-purposing three under-used, historic buildings and turning them into Heart of Howell, a thriving mixed-used development, is one of Joe’s most visible investments with enormous impact on our downtown."
A Howell dynasty in the making
In 1978, a friend spotted Parker's strong work ethic and made him a business offer he just couldn't refuse. He sent Parker and his wife to Corbin, Kentucky, the birthplace of Col. Sanders, to open and operate a pizza and steak sandwich shop.
After three years in the South and with Col. Sanders-style success nowhere in sight, the Parkers switched gears and returned home to Michigan with a daughter in tow so that Joe Parker could focus on a lifelong passion, repairing industrial machines.
Parker turned his passion into C & B and, in Livonia, launched the manufacturing company to design and build disc-grinding machines for Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Harley-Davidson and other manufacturers. The Parkers named the manufacturing company after their two daughters, Courtney and Brooke.
(Story continues below the photo)
Joe Parker, center, talks with son-in-law Fabrizio Tarara, vice president of C & B Machinery, about the controlling of a pinion grinder designed by the firm Parker formed. (Photo: Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily)
"We've worked for our children all of our lives," Parker said. "Our goal was to have a good quality of life for our children."
As C & B prospered, Parker moved to Howell and launched Allen Parker Investments in 1989, Howell Investments in 1993 and Rockford Service & Support in Rockford, Illinois, in 1999. He started Howell Land Development in 2005.
C & B now ships the machines to India, Mexico, Canada, Europe and other parts of the world. The accounting firm Ernst & Young gave Parker its Entrepreneur of the Year Award for 2008 in the Central Great Lakes region.
The Heart of Howell opened for business in 2011 and 2FOG's in 2015.
"I have an incredible amount of respect for Joe Parker and his family for all of the investment they have done and Livingston County," said Pam McConeghy, president and CEO of the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce. "They truly are remarkable, and I am extremely happy to have the new investment of C & B Machinery in Brighton.
"It is a great addition to our business community," she added. "We at the chamber of commerce wish them the very best with all endeavors."
His family ties
Parker's oldest, Courtney Tarara, manages Heart of Howell projects and is involved with other family businesses.
"I think what he has done with his life is amazing," Tarara said. "He came from absolutely nothing and got where he is with basically blood, sweat, tears (and) his guts.
"He's very loyal and passionate and hard working. Nothing was handed to him," she added.
Parker's youngest, Brooke Sredzinski, runs Allen Parker Investments and Howell Land Development.
Sredzinski also keeps the accounting books for C & B and 2FOG's Pub.
Howell Land Development has purchased a number of properties in Howell since launching in 2005, including the buildings that Parker converted into the Heart of Howell, which was filled to capacity earlier this year.
"I'm proud of him," Sredzinski said. "I'm proud he's my dad. He's a hard worker. He's dedicated. When he sets his mind to do something, he gives it his all, that's for sure.
"One of his admirable qualities is that he's a straight shooter, he's always honest," she added. "I think that's hard to find nowadays."
Parker plans on staying in Howell for the long term for several reasons. One, his daughters and their families live down the block. Two, he can see deer in his back yard. Three, he has a short commute to work, and Livingston has a rich talent pool of employees.
He credits his wife for his success. The Parkers have been married for 44 years.
"My wife, Becky, was the best thing I ever did," he said. "Being married to a quality person and having children, that was my first stroke of luck."
-Livingston Daily business reporter Noe Hernandez