STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK
Cheers went up as four Wood River High School students clad in white graduation gowns turned the corner and walked into Perry’s Restaurant Thursday morning.
Inside, U.S. Hockey Team star Hilary Knight was just leaving with her mother, her breakfast having been interrupted periodically by fans praising her as “America’s best hockey player.”
And out on the wraparound patio of the funky wooden three-story building, 40 Vamps were toasting the Nordic ski parties they’d had there.
Members of the Vamps and Dons Nordic program offer one last cheer for Perry’s.
A big slice of the Ketchum community will end on May 31 as Keith and Paula Perry serve their last Hawaiian sandwich and quinoa kale salad after 37 years.
“This has been the epicenter of Ketchum for so many years,” said EJ Harpham, who had biked up from her home south of Bellevue to pay her respects. “You always knew you could find good food and a friendly face here. And you always knew you’d be made to feel welcome.”
Paula Perry, who’d gotten a master’s degree in nursing from Arizona State University, had wanted to open a bed and breakfast when the couple traded the triple-digit heat of Phoenix for Sun Valley’s cooler climes. But, instead, she and Keith settled for a restaurant, even though they’d never run one before.
The man who put up their sign was so sure they wouldn’t last that he demanded cash up front.
Cynthia and Hilary Knight enjoy one last breakfast at Perry’s. “Their closing is very sad,” said Cynthia. “All children have always loved the food here. We’ve been coming here forever.”
“We didn’t think they’d last,” concurred Bobbie Burns at their 25th anniversary in 2010. “After all, we already had The Kitchen, the Buffalo Café and the Western Café.”
It took just 27 lunches a day to break even then in the days when the Perrys had just the second espresso machine in the valley. Now they serve a thousand customers a day, bringing in nearly $2 million in sales a year. Over the years the restaurant has expanded from 900 square feet to 3,000.
They’ve served Barbra Streisand and Paul McCartney over the years. And they’ve entertained their share of characters behind the counter, as well. Notably: Jane “McGloin, dubbed “Magoo” because of her similarity to the nearsighted cartoon character.
“She had to be past 70 when we hired her and she worked for us until she was 88,” Paula recalled. “She’d slip people cookies, and she’d call out orders and, if someone failed to respond, she’d slam the dish in front of them and say, ‘Aren’t you listening? I’ve been screaming my lungs out!’ ”
Keith and Paula Perry’s 8-year-old Dudley shares a moment with frequent customers Berit Kuykendall, Paddy Yancey and Jan Schlicht. Loyal customers surmise that Dudley will probably miss the interaction with customers the most.
Carol Monteverde was working at a nearby art gallery when the Perrys opened the family-friendly restaurant the day after Christmas in 1985. It revolutionized lunch hour, she recalled, as she was able to call in lunch orders and pick them up.
Since, the restaurant has delivered thousands of lunches to students at Sun Valley Community School, offered grab-and-go for hikers and picnickers headed to symphony concerts. And, just when you think the restaurant is winding down from lunch business, it is overrun with school kids and young soccer players seeking afternoon snacks.
“People will have to learn to make their kids’ lunches now,” quipped Brenda Spackman, who ate salads and soups at Perry’s every day for years.
“There’ll be hordes of kids wandering the streets since they’ll have nowhere to go after school!” offered Muffy Ritz.
Ed LaGrande will have to find a new office after 33 years at Perry’s.
Cesar Fausto-Rivera, who invented Perry’s popular Peruvian wrap from a family recipe, has worked at the restaurant since 1993. Perry’s also provided employment opportunities for countless teenagers—more than a hundred in one year alone.
“My kids used to come in here after school to get a chocolate chip cookie, and they’d put it on our charge account,” recalled Jim McLaughlin. “My son RJ’s first job was at Perry’s. So, we’ve been coming to Perry’s a long time. This has been a gathering place for so many—like Postmaster John McDonald and his bunch—I don’t know where they’ll go now.”
Joyce Fabre frequented Perry’s while living in Boise before she ever moved to Sun Valley.
“We’d come here for breakfast and lunch, and you could tell it looked like a little community here with locals hanging out and meeting one another. It’s not easy to find something like that in bigger cities,” she said.
In fact, it seems Perry’s has always been there when someone needed it.
When Hilary Knight and her U.S. Women’s Hockey Team were playing halfway around the world at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, her parents and three dozen others donned U.S. jerseys and crowded into Perry’s at 6 in the morning to watch the game live.
When Ketchum City Hall needed sandwiches and cookies for work lunches, they turned to Perry’s. Perry’s has provided cookies for countless ski races and other events and donated hundreds of gift certificates to charity events.
Ed LaGrande has made his office at Perry’s for 33 years, writing novels and short stories.
“Rent has cost me a muffin and a cup of coffee every day,” he said. “Where am I going to find another office like this?”
During the height of the pandemic LaGrande convinced Keith Perry to buy two air filter systems to clean the air inside. Perry also installed outdoor heat lamps and awnings and encased his patio in plastic so people could eat outside.
“A big compliment to him for doing that for his customers,” said LaGrande. “Perry’s has been a social hub for Ketchum and an important place—it’s like the old song says, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ We need an angel to fly in to create a new Perry’s.”
Muffy Ritz met her new boss Rick Kapala at Perry’s when she moved to town in 1990 to become assistant coach for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic program. She’s been frequenting the restaurant ever since.
“It’s the place to go. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I There’s nothing like Perry,” she said. “It’s laid out in a way that makes it a community hub. And I love the way they’ve incorporated the Hispanic community—they’ve been so supportive of that community.”
For years Perry’s just kept tabs on house accounts, which Paula spent hours tending to at the end of each month, said Jan Wygle. Finally, Perry’s began attaching credit cards to the house account.
Perry’s set new business records every month this past year. This month alone—during slack season—it is enjoying August-level business. But former NFL quarterback and Ketchum resident Carson Palmer and Sun Valley resident Broderick Smith purchased the building in June to build a multi-use building that will include condos. And, with their first grandchild due May 31, Keith and Paula decided it was time to hang up the spatula.
That 5-pound, 2-ounce baby Colt Taylor arrived two weeks early. And Paula’s got her ticket to fly out to meet the young’un, with hopes of devoting more time to hiking and cross-country skiing with friends when she returns.
Keith, meanwhile, is entertaining some prospects as a waiter for other restaurants—he’s not the type to twiddle his thumbs. But he might now be able to sleep in past 4:30 in the morning. And, perhaps, he can do a little more golfing, a little more hiking up Baldy and a little more cross-country skiing.
“We went to the Masters Tournament with Keith and he went nuts buying concessions for his dog Dudley,” recounted Phil Doerflein.
Thursday morning Matt Murray stood in line for breakfast, happy about being able to purchase the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ Institute of the American West posters off the wall for his collection of Sun Valley art. In its place, Perry had hung giant Christmas wreaths—all presumably for sale, as well.
Kim Nalen bought another half-dozen Perry cookies, along with a commemorative Perry’s mug as she enjoyed one last breakfast of portabello mushrooms with eggs and spinach and hollandaise sauce on top.
“I’ve got about three dozen Perry’s cookies stashed away in my freezer,” she said. “What am I going to do when they’re gone?”
Even as she spoke Paula Perry was recruiting some of her fellow Vamps to come Friday morning to help make cookies.
“I have all these people wanting cookies and no one to make them!” she said.
By 2 in the afternoon, Dudley could hardly hold his eyes open, having greeted hundreds of restaurant-goers in his capacity as maître d’.
But, yikes, there were just 5 minutes until the school kids would crowd in for their beer battered onion rings, cheese quesadillas and smoothies.
“We’re exhausted—we’ve been doing double the business with less than half the staff,” said Paula. “But it’s all good.”
Commemorative Perry’s T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and caps have been selling like hotcakes. Restaurant equipment will be sold off on June 17-18.
Meanwhile, Paula Perry is taking a list of those interested in a cookbook of Perry’s favorites at [email protected]. It should come out in six to 12 months, she said.