Selma’s Mark’s Mart wins Retailer of the Year award

Published 4:55 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mark’s Mart owner Rodney King, right, was notified this week that the store won a 2012 Retailer of the Year award. He will find out which award — gold, silver or bronze — at a luncheon in September. -- Ashley Johnson

The famous Chicken Swirls at Mark’s Mart just gained more widespread popularity, as the local country store won a Retailer of the Year award.

Storeowner Rodney King was notified this week that Mark’s Mart won either the gold, silver or bronze award in the Annual Sales $1 million – $5 million category for the 2012 Retailer of the Year Awards.

As to which award, that will be revealed at a luncheon in September in Birmingham.

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This will be the third year in a row a Selma business has won the award. Past winners include Carter Drug Co. and Butler Truax & Co.

Mark’s Mart has been around since the 1980s, but King said that even though most of their popular recipes and products have evolved over time, the concept of a country store has not.

In an age where convenience stores sell the same chips, crackers, processed candies and sodas, Mark’s Mart sells Selma-made goods and homemade, grill-ready meats and appetizers. Almond and peanut brittle, Selma-made candles and honey grown in Marion Junction all line the wooden shelves inside the small building. From the outside it looks like any other convenience store, but after passing through two saloon-esque wooden doors, the store has one of the widest wine and beer selections in town.

“I thought it would be a good idea to do something where you can put your whole meal on the grill,” King said. “We came up with four or five things and got busier and busier.”

His father opened a Mark’s Mart on Jeff Davis Avenue, now J.L. Chestnut Boulevard, in 1978. It was a simple convenience store that he built after he retired from civil service because he had always wanted to start his own business.

The store is now expanding to Northport in time for the University of Alabama’s football season.

“We’ve always kind of marketed the store to Selma and beyond and its kind of developed a customer base all over the state,” King said. “We just wanted to see what we could do in a bigger population. We have always had a big customer base from Tuscaloosa.”

King said there are even customers who drive from out of town to shop at the store.

“I think people connect with country stores, at least people my age, that they used to go to when they were little and those kind of got wiped off of the map,” he said.

This was the first year King applied for the Alabama Retail Association Awards, and he said the process was much more tedious than he thought. The process asks retailers to submit in-depth essays on their performance and their importance to the community, as well as photos.

King said he attributes much of the success of the store and the award to his team of employees.

“I really like to think that our employees, they really did this,” he said.