Chubby Ray’s – Louisville – Towne Post Network



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Chubby Ray’s owner shares his journey in the restaurant industry

Screenwriter / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photograph provided

Success comes from talent, tenacity and teamwork. Throughout his life, Ray Perkins used all three. A longtime resident of the Jeffersontown area, Perkins dabbled in different fields. As a high school student, he worked at KFC and McDonald’s. After high school, he was employed at a car dealership, then later worked for a yellow pages print directory company. He even published his own magazine – a “one man show” as he calls it, handling all advertising sales as well as distribution. In 1992 he decided to create his own restaurant. So he rented a small 950 square foot space in a mall from a man who owned a business called Papa Gino’s that sold cheese, flour and pepperoni to restaurant owners. The man was motivated to find someone in the space to generate customers, so he offered Perkins a good deal.

“I didn’t have any money, so I put $5,000 aside, and he brought me the remaining $10,000 to get started,” says Perkins, who had a vision of becoming the next Dad. John’s.

“The big players have huge advertising budgets and I don’t,” adds Perkins, who has tried to stimulate business by distributing flyers in adjacent apartment complexes. He also recruited friends to work for him when they left their main jobs. “When I took possession of the first space, the owner offered me half-price rent for the first six months. After those first six months though, we weren’t earning enough to afford it. I thought I should close but he said instead he would raise the rent by just $100 for the next six months and then reassess.

It made all the difference, because six months later the business had grown enough to support itself. At that time, Perkins was working more than 60 hours a week. “I couldn’t afford to pay people, so it was on me.” Over the course of several years, Perkins continued to expand his restaurant and evolve his concept. Gone was his vision of being the next Papa John’s, and instead he created specialty gourmet pizzas.

In 1995, Perkins opened a second restaurant, and in 2000, when he purchased the building that currently houses Chubby Ray’s, he opened a third restaurant. Managing three locations, however, was too much work, so he sold those restaurants and focused strictly on the one in Jeffersontown. Originally called Louisville Pizza Company, it changed the name to Chubby Ray’s. Although they still sell delicious pizza, more than half of their food sales come from other items. For example, they offer mouth-watering large wings, premium half pound angus burgers and a half pound fish sandwich which is especially popular during Lent. Customers rave that their tartar sauce is the best in town.

“We average over 100 fish sandwiches on Fridays during Lent,” says Perkins. “That’s pretty good for a restaurant that’s traditionally characterized as a pizzeria.”

Then there are the chicken livers, which are a huge hit.

Chubby Ray's“People love it,” Perkins says. “It’s a strange object that’s hard to find, so people are excited to find it here.”

The menu offers something for everyone.

“If my wife and I like something at another restaurant, we try to adapt it to our menu by putting our own spin on it,” says Perkins.

Most of their food is made from scratch. They make their own dressing, and the most popular is smoked tomato.

“People always ask if they can buy it and take it home, but since it’s a product made with fresh mayonnaise, it can’t sit on the shelf like ranch dressing in a grocery store” , explains Perkins.

When Chubby Ray first reopened after pandemic-related shutdowns, they could only do so at 33% capacity. Luckily, the capacity of their 3,000 square foot covered patio was unlimited as long as they maintained a 6 foot buffer between tables. Also, they put tables in the parking lot which allowed more diners to spread out.

People were eager to get out and participate in fun activities, as evidenced by the number of customers who flocked to Chubby Ray’s.

“The Gaslight Festival is traditionally our biggest week of the year, but every week, with the exception of November 2020 when the government closed us for another three weeks, has been busier than Gaslight,” says Perkins, who appreciates its loyal customers. “After we reopened, it changed people’s shopping habits. Instead of going to chain restaurants, people wanted to support local. When you’ve been open for 30 years, you become friends with your customers and know them by first name.

According to Perkins, labor costs are up 35% from pre-COVID, and food costs have nearly doubled. Finding employees was also a struggle.

“There was a time when there was a lot of help and not enough customers,” he says. “Now we have a lot of customers and not as much help as we would like.”

One change since the start of the pandemic is that they are now closed on Mondays.

“We just don’t have enough help,” says Perkins. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice something to save the whole thing.”

Chubby Ray'sPerkins lives a mile from Chubby Ray’s in a house built in 1929 and located right in the center of Jeffersontown.

“I’ve always loved this house,” he says. “One day there was an auction sign out front so I took a look. It was really torn up as it had been rented out as a kennel for a few years but I loved it and I loved it. so spent a lot of money to restore it.I’m a frugal person, but it was a labor of love.

Perkins and his wife Kathy have been married for 18 years. They have a son, Corey, and a daughter-in-law, Rachel. Their pride and joy is their grandson, Waylan, whom they babysit two days a week and whenever they can have him.

The couple love to travel and particularly enjoy going on cruises. Once life returns to some semblance of normality, they hope to take cruises to Alaska, the Mediterranean and Australia. They recently purchased property on Rough River Lake and plan to build a home there so they can enjoy weekend getaways.

“I prefer it because I really like the look of the lake and the fact that in an emergency I can be home in an hour and a half,” says Perkins. “But you know what they say, ‘Happy wife, happy life’, so we’ll keep sailing too.”

Chubby Ray’s is located at 3910 Ruckriegel Parkway in Louisville. For more information, call 502-267-1188 or visit chubbyrays.com.

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