Parham Parastaran’s family fled to the United States after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and eventually settled in Champaign. A Champaign Central and University of Illinois alumnus (undergrad and MBA), Parham joined his father as owners of a local Car-X. Since then, Parham has built the business to include nine area locations. The company is giving back to the community this summer through the Car-X Crazy K, an event on Aug. 27 that puts a twist on the traditional 5K run in an effort to raise a lot of money for several Champaign County charities. Parham and his wife, Jennifer, have three beautiful daughters, 6-year-old Ella; 4-year-old Alexa; and 7-month-old Leila. The family lives in Champaign.
Q: Your family has a unique story. Tell us how you came to the U.S and grew up in Champaign.
I first came to the U.S. when I was about 1. My Dad was getting his engineering degree at the University of Oklahoma. I was here until about the age of 5. Then we went to Iran where my dad started his career. In 1979, Iran’s king was overthrown and the Islamic rule began. Being a non-Muslim, and my dad’s Western-educated, made us a target under the new regime. My dad had to flee to London immediately. My mom, brother and I left four days later, but we weren’t as fortunate to leave on a plane like my Dad. The airport was bombed and shutdown the day before we were to fly out to London. So, my Dad enlisted the help of many random people and smuggled us out. We used every form of transportation possible. The escape is a story in itself. I could fill half of a book with that story. So 11 homes later we ended up here in Champaign. It was the middle of my freshman year when we sold our business Yankee Doodle Dandy, a small burger place in Libertyville that our entire family worked at. My dad then started the Car-X on University Avenue. My senior year of college, three years after my dad started the business, it became necessary for me to get involved with the business. I had money saved up from being a local tennis pro and used that to help my dad and buy my way into the business. It was a struggle but we made it. I then decided to make this my life and began to grow the business. I now own nine stores mainly in central Illinois. My dad stayed on as partner until about 2000.
Q: Your father built up the business that you now run. What are the challenges and benefits of a family business?
Truth is I built up the business which made it challenging in a different way. I felt pressure to keep my family involved in anything I did. And at times, that created some tension. But the benefits out-weighed that. I had someone that I could trust. My father did all of the bookkeeping until my wife took over in 2001. While I grew the business I had family behind me that I could trust with the details. That was huge!! I was a big picture guy and without my dad handling the details … I would have failed.
Q: What did you learn from your own father that you hope to pass down to your children?
My dad’s biggest lesson to me was “don’t ever fool yourself” and “always stay humble.” Hands down, the two most important things that I will never forget that helped my life.
Q: We’re getting excited about the Car-X Crazy K, the race/event/fundraiser on Aug. 27. What is your goal for the event and how can people get involved?
The goal is simple. I want thousands of people to participate and see how fun it can be to create money for local charities. I want to be able to say the “10th annual Crazy K” someday! People can get involved in many ways. 1) Spread the word. 2) Come and hang out and watch the event and the bands if they don’t want to run. It costs $20 for an all-day pass and that includes one meal. 3) Volunteer! On the website you can sign up to volunteer or call my office at 217-819-3021 for more info.
Q: Father’s Day is this weekend. What would be an ideal Father’s Day for you?
Golf in the morning with my buddies, afternoon with kids and my wife, and finally dinner at my home (that I cook).
Q: What does fatherhood mean to you?
Great question! It means many things. Mainly for me it means to learn day by day to redirect my focus from personal needs to my children’s needs. Easier said than done.