Owner of Preferred Parking Services LLC, Roger Stacks, saw his revenue plunge by 40-70% when workers stopped commuting and parking in March due to COVID. Knowing there was nothing he could do about it, he decided to refocus his team on consulting with residential and commercial real estate developers on parking design around the country.
“Developers understood COVID was a temporary setback and continued to design garages and towers,” said Stacks, a Charlotte native who has been in the parking business since he worked for the family business part-time as a teenager. “From New York to Atlanta, they contacted us for help understanding best parking design practices and savings that could be realized by not overbuilding parking.”
Stacks purchased Friendly Parking from his parents in 1989 when it consisted of 41 locations and changed the name to Preferred Parking. Today, Preferred Parking has 200+ surface lots and garages totaling 41,000 spaces in North Carolina (about 30,000 in Charlotte) with plans to enter more states starting with Tampa, FL on July 1.
As employees start thinking about returning to work, Stacks predicts a rush on monthly passes based on the uptick in purchases he has seen over the past few weeks. “Everyone started working from home in March and some gave up their monthly parking passes,” he said. “Those who wait until they actually return to work to get their parking pass back will likely end up disappointed and on a waiting list.”
Stacks, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate with a degree in Economics, says the business has changed dramatically over his more than three decades in the parking industry. “Back in the day, we folded up dollars and stuffed them in cash boxes hoping to get the space number correct,” he recalled. “Now we have phone apps, license plate recognition and ticketless systems that require less manpower.”
Parking prices in Charlotte have changed drastically, too. A lot at 3rd and Poplar, that was $1.25/day in 1984 is now $16/day. Planning for the new hybrid, post-COVID work world, Stacks is considering a Flex Pass that would allow for 10 uses per month.