By Nyesha Stone
Willie Perkins Sr. and Hilda Perkins have paved the way for many Black business owners in the city of Milwaukee by showing the community how to run a successful business. Willie Sr. and Hilda opened the Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant 50 years ago in 1969.
The Perkins have become central figures not in just the Black community but in the growth of the city.
These two showed us what hard work, good food, great service and a welcoming atmosphere can create.
Customers who’ve been coming for years and even new ones, came to celebrate with the Perkins at their 50th anniversary celebration held outside their restaurant. At 11 a.m. sharp, Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant opened its doors to diners and served them a delicious meal – free of charge.
Community members were served fried chicken, fish, collard greens, baked macaroni, black-eyed peas and desserts.
When Willie Sr. and Hilda arrived on scene they were treated like celebrities, but the only thing on Hilda’s mind was how grateful she was for the support over the years.
“It feels really good. I’m just so happy things went for 50 years,” said Hilda. “Without the people in the community we would be nothing.”
When the two first had the idea, Hilda said she knew it would be a lot of work but that didn’t stop them.
She encourages more Black people to take a chance on themselves and go into business for themselves.
“We did a lot of hard work, but we don’t regret it,” she said.
Although Willie Sr. and Hilda started the business, they are no longer owners. The restaurant was bought in 1999 by their late son Willie Perkins Jr. and Cherry Perkins, the current owner who was married to Willie Jr.
After losing her husband in 2010, Cherry said it was a challenge running an entire restaurant, but God was always on her side.
“It’s by faith,” said Cherry. “I lean on God and ask him for guidance.”
Just like Hilda, Cherry said it’s because of the Milwaukee community and those around the nation who’ve helped the restaurant reach 50 years.
“We are grateful for them,” she said about the community’s support. “We hope they continue to support the restaurant for years to come.
Brenda McMurtry hadn’t been to Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant in over 20 years because she moved away for work. Now that she’s retired and moved back home, she felt it was only right to come visit Willie Sr. and Hilda whom she met through their church, Lamb of God Missionary Baptist Church.
“They’ve made a great name for themselves,” said McMurtry. “The community appreciates having them here.”
McMurtry was able to get to know Willie Sr. and Hilda on a personal level, and according to her they’re some of the friendliest people she’s ever met. She added that it feels like she’s known them her whole life.
“This is something to celebrate,” she said about the restaurant reaching 50 years.
Make sure to stop by Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant located at 2001 W. Atkinson Ave. to try some of their delicious food and to congratulate them on such a great accomplishment.