q&a with Anthony Perrine
Lou Perrine’s Gas & Grocery
5145 Sheridan Road
Can you tell us about the rich history of Lou Perrine’s?
In 1954, Lou Perrine Sr. started a small full service Clark station on the corner of 52nd Street and Sheridan Road. It was back in the good ol’ days when someone pumped your gas, checked your oil, and cleaned your windshield all at once. Grandpa Lou was known for his smiling face and outstanding customer service. Lou Jr., entered the business during his high school years. While pumping gas for his father, Lou Jr. not only learned the business, but also met his future wife, Laurie. In 1985, the Perrine family lost Grandpa Lou to cancer. To honor his late father, Lou Jr. took over the business. Over time, he turned the small full service gas station into what you see today. In 2008 Lou’s eldest son, Anthony (me), entered the family business making it 3 generations strong.
What is your first memory of the family business?
Coming to work late with my dad. Sleeping on his couch and eating Mcdonalds in the morning.
What made you want to get into the family business?
I knew early on I had an entrepreneurial spirit inside me so during college I made the decision to enter the business.
Who inspires you in the business?
Grandpa Lou and his belief that they were more than customers, they were family.
Has anyone else inspired you to build your business?
1. My father.
2. PT Barnum.
3. Mark Cuban
You’re marketing for Lou Perrine’s is top of the line, how do you come up with some of your crazier ideas?
I read the book “Blue Ocean Shift” and it changed my mindset on marketing. I always was a fan of marketing and advertising. It was one of the only classes I really liked or paid attention to in high school and college. I try to stay up to date with current culture and capitalize on that. I also think to myself, what are things that the big boys won’t do and try. Some people ask WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? I ask myself, WHAT WOULD BARNUM DO?
Can you tell us about the “As seen on TV” famous Ho-Ho cake story?
A few years ago a man robbed a motel in Racine wearing one of our I LOVE HOHO CAKE sweatshirts. People thought it was one of our employees. Once we made sure it had nothing to do with us, we tried to make a positive out of a negative situation. All the news anchors were making jokes about what is a HoHo cake? So I went to social media, notified the Racine Sheriff Department we would give a years worth of cake to whoever helps turn the guy in. Then I went on Twitter and sent pictures and made jokes with all the news anchors telling them what HoHo Cake was. I called the guy the HoHo Cake Bandit. That stuck and all the news stations picked up the fun story. Then one of our regular customers worked for WGN and they picked up the story and the rest was history. No, they never caught the guy. And NO, I didn’t pay anyone for the publicity stunt.
What is the key to running one of the most popular and successful businesses in the area?
I don’t know about successful, but basically I would say never get stuck in your ways. The world changes on the daily, either adapt and survive, or die.
Can you tell us any info on your new south side location?
We had plans out of the gate. We cleaned the site up, gutted the inside, then we waited on the road construction to be finished. Then Corona hit. As of right now we are working on evaluating our plans and figuring out what our next step is for that site.
What makes Lou Perrine’s stand out from all the other gas stations?
We are unique. We are one of the only family run gas stations left. We have our propitiatory cake, Mama P’s HoHo Cake, we deliver, and we have a killer loyalty program. At the end of the day, it’s our people. We have a team that becomes family. They work their A$$ off and make magic happen.
You have a special loyalty card program. If someone isn’t a member, what are they missing out on?
They are missing out on FREE cash! Grandpa Lou always said, CASH IS KING. So we took that motto and turned it into a loyalty program. You spend money, we give you money back.
You have started the trend of delivering anything in your store (expect beer & liquor) Tell us how flattering it is that other gas stations are starting to follow your tend.
I always say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. We delivered before it was cool.
So who makes your famous HoHo cakes? And what’s the secret ingredient?
It’s made with LOVE!
How has your business & mind set changed since Covid-19?
It really shows how quickly everything can be taken away from you and how overnight business can be completely shut down. It has been very hard to keep our doors open. We made a commitment to not lay anyone off during Corona. It was great that we were deemed essential, but it made it very stressful trying to keep employees safe, the store clean, and make customers feel safe.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working or coming up with the next great marketing idea?
Watch documentaries, study history, read as much as I can, workout, and make sweet love to my fiance.
What do you love about Downtown Kenosha?
It’s like it’s own little community and we have the best part of Kenosha (The Lake).
Do you have a favorite quote?
“I’d rather die on my feet then live on my knees”
Interview & photos by Donny Stancato – Edited by Jason Hedman
(This story originally appears the print version of the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Downtown Kenosha Magazine)