A History of Hospitality Work

When Leonard Parker founded the Parker Company (TPC) in 1969, he couldn’t have anticipated that he would become defined by his precedent-setting achievements in the hospitality-procurement industry, including the creation of the “agent only” style of procurement and purchasing. But now, with offices in Miami; London; Dubai, UAE; Shanghai, China; and Zurich, Switzerland, his firm, an international leader in FF&E and OS&E technical services, continues to promote his legacy ever further as it moves into still more markets, including Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Fielding more than 100 projects every year, TPC does more than $225 million in annual purchasing, focusing 60 percent of its efforts on new construction and the remaining 40 percent on large-scale, high-profile renovations such as that of the UN Plaza in New York City. Leonard retired in 2003, but the business remains a family partnership, with Doug Parker as the president, CEO, and co-director of the FF&E division; Mitch Parker as a COO and co-director of the FF&E division; and Philip Parker as a COO and director of the OS&E division. Each has more than 28 years in the company their father set out on his own to create.

1931: maxwell company is founded

Precipitating the creation of the Leonard Parker Company in 1969, Irving Greenfield, Leonard Parker’s father-in-law, founds the Maxwell Company, a large furniture showroom based in Miami.

1954: leonard parker joins maxwell

After completing his service in the Korean War, Leonard Parker begins work at the Maxwell Company. According to Mitch, “The Maxwell Company was one of the three companies that created the industry of hospitality procurement as we know it today.” The firm operates as a turnkey FF&E resource for its hotel clients, managing design, procurement, and financing.

1969: Leonard Parker company is Founded

When the Maxwell Company is unable to support collateral lost as a result of being the primary creditors for its clients, the business closes. So, in 1969, Leonard founds the Leonard Parker Company. “My father started his own company and invented the ‘agent only’ style of purchasing, which almost every company now uses,” Mitch says. In this model, procurement agents write the purchase orders as agents for the owners, meaning the orders are written relying on the owner’s credit rather than the company’s credit.

1969: Harry Helmsley Becomes a Client

Leonard signs real-estate mogul Harry Helmsley—one-time owner of the Empire State Building, the Helmsley Palace, and the Park Lane Hotel—as a client during his firm’s first year of business, which immediately places the Leonard Parker Company on the map. “During the ’70s, the Leonard Parker Company grew to become one of the largest independent-purchasing companies in the United States,” Mitch says.

1980–1984: sons join the business

After the firm’s tremendously successful first decade, Douglas Parker becomes the first of Leonard’s four sons to enter the business—and the third generation of the family to enter the industry—in 1980. Brad Parker joins in 1982, and Philip and Mitch follow him in 1984. “We all started at the entry level as purchasing coordinators and moved up from there,” Mitch says.

1985: opens os&e division

After a period of significant growth in the FF&E field, and with his sons now aboard, Leonard decides to create a corresponding OS&E division at his company. “When Philip came into the business, he was immediately tracked to the OS&E side,” Mitch says. “Because the four of us were working in the business, [Leonard] saw it as an opportunity to grow and expand.”

1987–1994: expanding nationally and globally

After operating out of Miami for nearly 20 years, the Leonard Parker Company opens a Los Angeles office to maintain a presence on both coasts. A few years later, the company opens its first international office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through this, the company secures a relationship with Sun International and manages the procurement for the Palace of the Lost City. This relationship helps the Leonard Parker Company open another office in Dubai, UAE, which does FF&E and OS&E work for the iconic Burj Al Arab and other hotels.

1994–1997: going public, expanding further

Leveraging the momentum gained from the office openings in Johannesburg and Dubai, the Leonard Parker Company goes on to open offices in Singapore; London; and Amsterdam, Netherlands. In 1997, the business is sold to a public company: Hospitality Worldwide Services.

2003: parker goes private

The same year Leonard retires from the business, the company once again goes private and officially becomes the Parker Company. “Nothing changed internally as a result of the privatization,” Mitch says, “and the company that was created in 2003 is the same one that we have today.”

The James Royal Palm / PHOTO: GRACIELA CATAROSSI
The James Royal Palm / PHOTO: GRACIELA CATAROSSI

2012–Present: New markets

The Parker Company is fielding more than 50 large-scale projects per year and managing relationships with more than 6,000 vendors, including P/Kaufmann. It completes projects such as the NoMad Hotel, the James Royal Palm (right), and the UN Plaza (below), and it plans to open offices in Rio de Janeiro to respond to new work in Brazil, including procurement for more than 200 Super 8 Motels. “Without question, I believe the Parker Company has established itself as the industry leader in international hospitality procurement,” Mitch says, “and our goal for the next few years is to bolster that success in our international offices.” ABQ

The UN Plaza