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In Good Taste

Chubby Ray’s Owner Shares His Journey in the Restaurant Industry

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography Provided

Chubby Ray’sSuccess comes from talent, tenacity and teamwork. Throughout his life, Ray Perkins has utilized all three. A lifelong resident of the Jeffersontown area, Perkins has 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 says, since he handled all of the ad sales as well as the distribution. In 1992 he decided to start his own restaurant, so he rented a small, 950-square-foot space in a strip mall from a man who owned a company called Papa Gino’s that sold cheese, flour and pepperoni to restaurant owners. The man was motivated to get someone in the space to generate customers, so he offered Perkins a sweet deal.

“I had no money so I put $5,000 down, and he carried me on the other $10,000 to get me started,” says Perkins, who had visions of becoming the next Papa John’s. 

“The big guys have huge advertising budgets and I didn’t,” adds Perkins, who tried to drum up business by passing out flyers in adjacent apartment complexes. He also recruited friends to work for him when they got off of work from their main jobs. “When I took over the first space, the landlord gave me half-price rent for the first six months. After those first six months though, we weren’t making enough to afford it. I thought I’d have to close but he said that instead, he’d raise the rent by just $100 for the next six months and then reassess.”

That made all the difference, as six months later, the business grew enough to sustain itself. In those early days Perkins worked 60 + hours a week. “I couldn’t afford to pay people so it was on me.” Through the course of several years, Perkins continued to expand his restaurant and evolve its 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 bought the building that currently houses Chubby Ray’s, he opened a third restaurant. Running three places, however, was too much work so he sold those restaurants and focused strictly on the one in Jeffersontown. Originally called Louisville Pizza Company, he changed the name to Chubby Ray’s. Though they still sell deliciouis pizza, more than half of their food sales are from other items. For instance, they offer large, mouth-watering wings, half-pound premium angus burgers, and a half-pound fish sandwich that’s particularly popular during Lent. Customers rave that their tartar sauce is the best in town.

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

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

Chubby Ray’s“People absolutely love it,” Perkins says. “It’s an odd item that’s hard to find, so people get 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 that into our menu by putting our own spin on it,” Perkins says. 

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

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

When Chubby Ray’s first opened back up after pandemic-related shutdowns, they could only do so at 33% capacity. Thankfully, the capacity for their 3,000-square-foot covered patio was unlimited as long they maintained a 6’ buffer between tables. Additionally, they put tables in the parking lot, which enabled more diners to spread out. 

People were eager to get back out and partake in some 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 shut us down for another three weeks, has been busier than Gaslight,” says Perkins, who appreciates his loyal customers. “After we reopened, it changed people’s shopping patterns. Instead of going to chain restaurants, people wanted to support local. When you’ve been open for 30 years, you get to be friends with your customers and know them on a first-name basis.” 

According to Perkins, labor costs are up 35% from before COVID, and food costs are close to double. Finding employees has also been a struggle.

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

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

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

Chubby Ray’sPerkins lives one mile from Chubby Ray’s in a home that was built in 1929 and is located smack in the center of Jeffersontown.

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

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

The couple likes to travel and especially enjoys taking cruises. Once life returns to some semblance of normalcy, they hope to take Alaskan, Mediterranean and Australian cruises. They recently bought some property on Rough River Lake and plan to build a house there so they can enjoy weekend getaways. 

“I prefer that, as I really like the lake aspect and the fact that in an emergency, I can be home in an hour and a half,” Perkins says. “But you know what they say, ‘Happy wife, happy life,’ so we will continue to cruise 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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2 Reviews for Chubby Ray’s – Louisville

Karen Campbell

1 Reviews

Regular customer

5/ 5

Our group goes just about every Saturday night and sometimes Friday if a band is playing that we like. The food is really good!! I have tried a variety of food and never been disappointed. Try them out, you will not be sorry!!

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Linda Richards

1 Reviews

Good food

5/ 5

I love going to Chubby Rays to eat. The food is good and people are friendly. Give them a try you won’t be sorry. There’s nothing that I have tried that I did not loved.

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