By Pauline Reneaux
The story behind the creation of Wildwood Pizza is as wonderful as the food they serve on their menu. Both are unique, original, and inspiring. In June of 2018, Only In Your State Magazine wrote, “This might just be the best little pizza joint in all of Louisiana.” Wildwood Pizza, which opened in 2014, has evolved from the entrepreneurial spirit of Gary Perkins, his children, and their business partner Lee Gwinn.
Gary began working in the restaurant business at Poets while he was a student at LSU and hasn’t stopped since, with Fast Track Hamburgers, American Spirits, which became the neighborhood restaurant, Spirits Food & Friends, Lee J’s and now Wildwood Pizza all part of his resume. His children have followed in his footsteps, with Garrett Perkins as the Director of Operations and Vivian Perkins leading their Social Media Marketing.
Lee bought Spirits Food & Friends from Gary in 2005 and moved the establishment to its current location in 2013. The mutual respect, friendship, and love for a good business venture made this a perfect partnership for the two men.
After Gary sold Spirits and Lee J’s in 2008, he went to work for CLEDA, Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, running their entrepreneurship program. During this time, he and Lee kept tossing around ideas that could be introduced to the community. This team of innovative entrepreneurs quickly realized that what started out as a wood fire pizza oven in the Perkins’ backyard, using fresh ingredients from their garden and a love for creating new things, had the potential for so much more than backyard parties with the delicious pizzas they were creating.
They literally tossed around names on a white board until they found one they liked and even the design of the restaurant itself was the vision of Vivian Perkins and David Crain, a designer within the Central Louisiana Community. Wildwood Pizza is truly a local business, using local talent to show us all by example the entrepreneurial spirit in action.
The Central Louisiana Community has been so supportive of Lee J’s, Spirits Food & Friends and Wildwood Pizza over the years that they created “Pizza with a Purpose” on Tuesdays to give nonprofit organizations in the community a chance to receive 10% of their sales on that day.
The idea that they would eventually expand their operation farther than the Central Louisiana area was part of their original vision, one that they are now ready to bring to fruition. In early 2019, Wildwood Pizza will open additional locations in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles.
For all of us who have had the privilege to work and be mentored by these incredible business leaders, we have to wish them the best and we already know they will be a huge success as they take Wildwood Pizza to the rest of the state and to parts unknown.
To learn more about Pauline Reneaux, visit her blog at Pauline-Reneaux.com. She welcomes email firstname.lastname@example.org.