Castlegar’s enterprising entrepreneur
Jordan Perkins is living his dream, coaching his staff and cross-promoting Castlegar’s businesses
At 35 years old, Jordan Perkins, franchisee at the Boston Pizza in Castlegar, B.C., has 22 years of experience in the restaurant business. Growing up in a low-income family in Ontario, Perkins wanted to have the kind of stuff his school friends had, so at the age of 13 he got an after-school job in a small pizza place. He was a tall kid who seemed older than his years, and he worked from 4:00 to midnight, five evenings a week.
“I worked in as many restaurants as I could, to get experience,” Perkins said. “I knew I wanted to own a restaurant by the time I was 25, and I almost made it—it took me until I was 26.”
Go west, go south, go
At 21, while he was working in Whistler, Perkins was invited to go to the Caribbean for a couple of months to open a beach bar. The deal included wages of $50 per week, and Perkins grabbed the opportunity.
“I stayed there for two years and I opened three businesses,” he said. “The first one was a success, and then the second one, and the third one too—and then I missed Canada and I came home. Someone told me Kelowna doesn’t get snow, so I hitchhiked from Toronto to Kelowna. For a couple of years I worked in motels and restaurants, including a Boston Pizza, and then the company offered me a great deal financially—to take over the ownership of the Boston Pizza in Castlegar. I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it! Where’s Castlegar?’ ”
Perkins’s resemblance to a certain American celebrity was emphasized when, the night before he was to meet the Boston Pizza staff at his newly acquired restaurant, he buzzed off most of his hair. He found the general reaction to his new look quite amusing.
“Very quickly a rumour started around town that Justin Timberlake had bought the Boston Pizza,” he said, laughing. “So people started coming by to check it out, which helped the whole cause. It was pretty funny, and people still call me Justin as a joke. I’ve kept the short hair—I do it myself and it saves me the cost of haircuts.”
More than just a company man
Perkins has become quite a force for change in the business world in Castlegar. His ideas for cross-promotion among businesses, including encouraging people to shop locally and increasing the flow between Castlegar’s uptown and downtown business areas, have certainly met with the approval of the local chamber of commerce.
“He’s a marketing guru,” said Tammy Verigin-Burk, executive director of the Castlegar & District Chamber of Commerce. “He’s drawing people to shop local because they get so many benefits, not just because it’s the right thing to do.”
Perkins is reaching the community in his own unique ways, and profit is not his only motivation.
“We have a deal with about a dozen dentists, including some in Trail and Fruitvale,” he said. “Any kid under the age of 10 who goes to one of those dentists gets a free kid’s meal from us at Boston Pizza.”
His support of the local hockey and other sports teams goes beyond cheering them on. Any hockey team or other group of 15 or more gets 20 per cent off their bill if they pre-order. That’s efficient for the restaurant and supportive to the teams.
“We keep track of the receipts for deliveries to guests at the Sandman Hotel,” Perkins said, “and every so often we calculate 10 per cent of the total and give that amount in free Boston Pizza product to the staff as a thank you for recommending us.”
Man with a mission
Perkins likes developing the people who work for him. He tells them that when they leave Boston Pizza, he wants them to have more skills than when they started.
“At work, three things are important: do your job, get along with people and have fun—you need to do all of them,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re disappointing your boss or disappointing yourself or you’re burning out. You always need to raise the bar—try to do better than the guy beside you, without putting him down. You want the whole team to win. The restaurant business is not a sprint, it’s an endurance race.”
Perkins describes himself as a leader rather than a boss, and he remembers his humble beginnings. “I still do dishes,” he said. “I deliver pizzas, I do all the maintenance here—I do whatever it takes.”
Balancing the work
A couple of years ago Perkins tried his hand at painting, and he has developed a style that’s bold, colourful and big—his canvases are one metre square or bigger. He likes to create his own version of portraits of celebrities and is planning to do a portrait of Leo Tolstoy for the Castlegar Art Walk. Tolstoy was an ardent supporter of the Doukhobor emigration fund when the first members of that religious sect came to Canada; many settled in the Castlegar area. You can see some of Perkins’s work on his Facebook page.
Perkins is also a whitewater paddleboard instructor who frequently makes trips on the Columbia River from Millennium Park down to Genelle or Trail, just to show people how beautiful it is.
In the typical poor-kid-makes-good story, the poor kid often becomes a shark. In this case, however, the kid is enriching his business community, he’s contributing to its culture and he’s employing and mentoring its young people. Not a shark, then, but certainly a catch.