By Kallan Louis
In 2007, retired couple Phillip and Lillie Oden moved to Charlotte from Cleveland. Listening to the advice of family and friends, the Odens decided to continue working post-retirement. They had previous experience in small business and customer service. Phillip’s family owned a cleaning service and Lillie worked as a workmen’s compensation supervisor. After much research, they decided to purchase a UPS Store franchise along Beatties Ford and Sunset Road.
The Odens arrived at the right time. According to Lillie, the area had just began to develop and the UPS Store was one of the first businesses in the shopping center. Literally at the center of attention, the store proudly stands as an anchor, sandwiched among the other small businesses to its left and right in the plaza.
“Back then, the area was not built up like is now,” said Lillie. “So that was a good opportunity, because people were moving into the area and they were trying to build up that side of Charlotte. There wasn’t anything close around that area for people to go get copies made, fax service, shipping and etc.”
The store location provided a steady stream of business for the Odens. Lillie described the area as a diverse mix of middle-class and lower income residents. The customers’ needs varied, from individuals needing small personal services for loved ones to local government agencies needing complex projects completed in a time crunch.
“All UPS Stores provide the same services,” said Lillie. “You have to cater to the needs of your specific area. For us, there was a lot of printing. People needed a lot of flyers, brochures, funeral programs and business cards. So we found that base there.”
After 10 years, UPS Store franchises owners need to make a decision to renew, sell or close the store. Phillip had become ill, so the couple’s priorities had changed. Understanding the community wanted the store to remain, Lillie chose to sell the store.
“It was a good 10 years,” she explained. “I enjoyed serving the customers. I’m glad someone came along and picked the ball up and kept it going in that area, because they do desperately need us there and they appreciate the store being there.”
Jon Prather, the new coowner and store manager, has more than 30 years’ experience in the local printing business, so he felt that owning a UPS Store would be a good fit.
“My number one priority when I took over was to retain the existing customers,” said Prather. “Since we took over, we have seen about a seven percent growth.”
Prather is focused on building on what the Odens established. He was able to keep a longtime store associate, purchase new equipment and add some new vendors. Prior to taking on this role, Prather had not had a history of working directly with customers one-on-one, but he has enjoyed the experience of relationship-building in the community.