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Hollings Café owners gear up to ride tandem

August 08, 2019
José and Wendy Peréy
José and Wendy Peréy will put their tandem bike to the 25-mile test. Photo by Emma Vought

José and Wendy Peréy are the friendly faces of Hollings Cancer Center who fill hungry stomachs and administer a daily dose of joy. Now, the Hollings Café owners will be supporting the cancer center they’ve called their second home for seven years in another way. They’ll be riding in LOWVELO, an outdoor bike ride on Nov. 2, where 100 percent of rider-raised funds goes to cancer research.

And they’ll be doing it on a tandem bike for 25 miles.

The idea came about, oddly enough, because of car problems. Hollings Cancer Center Director Gustavo Leone, Ph.D., saw the Peréys’ car broken down after work one day and stopped to help. While waiting for other help to arrive, Wendy asked Leone about the bike ride they had seen promoted around the cancer center. The couple had a bike Wendy had been begging her husband to get rid of. But now, she had a better idea.

That’s when Wendy told José to get their tandem bike fixed – they were going to ride. The funny part? Wendy doesn’t know how to ride a bike.

“He’s the one pedaling,” she says with a laugh. “I just want to be a part of it.”

And so does José. More than ever, he realizes the need for cancer research. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Now he takes oral chemotherapy to manage his cancer. On June 11, his lab results yielded very good news, and his prognosis remains positive.

“I think I'm the luckiest guy on the planet,” José says. “Here I am, diagnosed with cancer myself, and I get the best treatment from the best people in the world.”

José lives every day like it could be his last, as he thinks everyone should, and that’s by having fun and treating people with kindness. LOWVELO, he says, is just another way to do that.

“I think it's great how Hollings participates in things to raise money for furthering cancer research,” he says. “Anything I can do running a café to help that, being a cancer patient myself, makes me proud.”

As a team, José and Wendy like to brighten people’s days. The two met when José, a Charleston native and College of Charleston graduate, was working as a banker for South Carolina National. Wendy was managing her mother’s Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center. The women at his bank pushed José to ask Wendy out.

“She was way out of my league,” he says. “Still is.”

José nervously asked Wendy out, and on July 17, they will celebrate their 31st anniversary.

“Some things you just know,” José says with a smile, referring to his wife. “Only thing I ever knew.”

The Peréys have been partners in life and in business ever since. They have two children and three grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way. Before taking over Hollings Café in May of 2012, they opened Charlie Steakery franchises, Wholly Cow ice cream shops, Majestic Grille and four Chinese restaurants in the Charleston area.

When the opening at Hollings Café came available, José and Wendy took over.

“Sometimes the direction finds you,” José says. “It was kind of fate.”

Now, the Peréys are icons at Hollings, drawing in people for not only their Friday egg rolls or daily specials but also the positive attitudes they radiate in a place that needs it the most.

“It's good to be in a venue where people are giving back, and you really see how people are – not only the vulnerable part of them but the great part of them,” José says. “I'm very grateful and humbled by all of it – the whole existence.”

José is looking forward to participating in LOWVELO and seeing if his wife “really knows what 25 miles are.”

But, to the Peréys, LOWVELO is more than a ride, just as the Hollings Café is more than a job.

“At this point in our lives, it's a good way to give back,” José says. “We've seen so much in our time here, and it makes you appreciate how lucky you are.”

About the Author

Kacey Finch

Keywords: Cancer, Fitness and Wellness, Research, Features