Posted on: November 12, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

With the help of Oak Lawn Chamber Board President Eileen Kerlin Walsh (from left) and Mayor Terry Vorderer, Nick and Jacklyn Perakis cut the ribbon on their new restaurant.

By Marisa Bresnahan, JRN 111 Student

People are talking and laughing, noise from their voices flooding the restaurant. Music is playing from the speakers as servers and bus people tend to tables. A man walks up in jeans and a dress shirt to greet your table, introducing himself as he pours water into your glasses.

He is Nick Perakis, and this is his dream come true: a restaurant called Rockefeller’s, located in Oak Lawn. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced many restaurants to close, Perakis saw a window of opportunity.  

He had seen friends at his Greek Orthodox church with the kind of success he longed for: “A lot of them had restaurants and stuff like that. It always looked like the people who had restaurants had a better lifestyle–drove fancier cars, had nicer clothes.”

He admits it might be “shallow” for a kid to say he wants a fancy lifestyle, but that desire drove him to the food industry, where he has worked for many years.

“It’s all I’ve ever known, it’s all I’ve ever been attracted to,” he said.

I was probably told no or got to the finish line with investors 20 times, only to have the deal fall apart. If you quit, you are guaranteed to lose.”

Restaurant owner Nick Perakis

Perakis started out as a busboy at age 14. After about three years, he worked on Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park for four and a half years doing a number of jobs. But the bigger part of his career in the food industry was working for about a decade at Louie’s Chophouse in Oak Lawn.

At Louie’s, Perakis did managing, bartending, “basically whatever they needed to have done.” He said, “This place actually put me through college.”

With all of this background working at various food establishments, Perkais was set up perfectly for an even higher position as a restaurant owner.  He remembers a conversation he had with his wife, Jacklyn, about becoming a restaurant owner: “I said, ‘You know what, I want to take the plunge and do it myself and see what happens.’”

Making his dream happen wasn’t going to be easy. “I was probably told no or got to the finish line with investors 20 times, only to have the deal fall apart,” Perakis says. But he didn’t let that stop him. “If you quit, you are guaranteed to lose,” he says.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, most restaurants were struggling to stay open as they began abiding by new protocols being set to ensure safety and stop the spread of the coronavirus. But despite seeing restaurants scrambling to stay open and adjusting their hours, Perakis saw the situation differently.

“When everyone was saying ‘Oh my God, it’s a pandemic, it’s a terrible thing,’ I saw it as an opportunity,” he said.

He spoke with the landlord of Louie’s Chophouse, knowing no one was going to want to take that space due to the pandemic.

“I would never have been able to open a business in a cheaper way than to take advantage of the situation going on in the street,” he says.

I don’t want to be 80 years old saying, ‘I wish I would’ve done that,’ so I want to live my life with no regrets.”

Nick Perakis, Rockefeller’s Owner

People viewed this business move as crazy, but something told Perakis it was the right thing. “I thought I was a genius, to be honest with you,” he said. “ Not to sound humble at all, but I looked at it differently.”

He didn’t believe the pandemic itself had much impact on bringing in customers. And that is how Rockefeller’s was born and Perakis’ dream became reality.

Being a new owner means making relationships with customers as well as staff.

“He’s great,” says Rockefeller’s manager Sheila Powers. “You can tell he really cares about his business and bringing in customers. You know, I’ll see him go up to a table and ask how their dinner is. That’s just the type of owner he is.”

Rockefeller’s now has its own frequent customers, Perakis says: “That’s the crazy part too, you have regulars who come on a weekly or biweekly basis.”

Perakis also uses social media to help draw in customers. “People in the community talk about us, we are in churches, we are everywhere,” he says.

Despite the pandemic, Rockefeller’s has found success, and Perakis no longer has to dream about what is now his reality. He couldn’t be happier.

“I don’t want to be 80 years old saying,  ‘I wish I would’ve done that,’ so I want to live my life with no regrets,” he says. “Knowing this was always my dream to open my own restaurant, to finally achieve it almost seems comical.”