Magnolia's co-founder Parsell dies

Tom Parsell

Local entrepreneur in crash on U.S. 17

MOUNT PLEASANT — Thomas Parsell, a local entrepreneur and restaurateur, died Wednesday night in an automobile accident on U.S. Highway 17.

Parsell, 63, of Charleston, was traveling south on the highway about 6:40 p.m. and had just stopped at a red light at the intersection with Park West Boulevard, said Mount Pleasant police Sgt. Pat Carter Jr.

It appears that, when the light changed, Parsell might have accelerated too quickly and lost control of his classic silver-colored Corvette, Carter said.

Parsell's vehicle crossed the grassy median and struck a Volvo traveling in the opposite direction, Carter said. An SUV then hit the rear of the Volvo.

Parsell suffered blunt-force trauma and died at the scene, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Kelly Myers said. Another driver was taken to East Cooper Regional Medical Center, treated and released, Carter said.

A former automobile dealer, Parsell was president and principal proprietor of Charleston-based Hospitality Management Group Inc.

He and his business partner, noted chef Donald Barickman, helped the city establish its reputation as a culinary destination with their 1991 opening of Magnolias on East Bay Street. They went on to open Blossom Café in 1993 and Cypress Lowcountry Grill in 2001.

All three restaurants are still in business, no small accomplishment given the highly competitive nature of the dining scene in downtown Charleston.

According to his company's Web site: "Parsell and Barickman have gained a reputation of excellence in the industry and have received accolades for their properties from such notable critics and food experts as Gourmet Magazine, Bon Appetit, The New York Times, Southern Living, Nation's Restaurant News, The

James Beard Foundation, and the Food Network."

Parsell was a graduate of Southern Methodist University and owned Tom Parsell Chevrolet Inc. from 1975 to 1989. He sold the dealership to Rick Hendrick.

In 1989, he was interviewed for The Post and Courier. He said, "Since coming to Charleston in 1975, I've seen an explosion of population and the development of the most exciting business climate anyone could imagine."

A Honda and Toyota dealership Parsell formed in 1990 was sold in 2003.

Parsell also was a founder of Bank of Charleston, which is now part of Carolina First, and he lectured on entrepreneurship at the college level.

Parsell was active with his wife, Suzi, in local preservation efforts.