November-December

16 C ecil Beaton once said, “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it- safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” Venice Perno, owner of The Performance Cellar in Ontario, Canada, embraces this concept and because of it, he’s living the dream. Perno’s path to fulfillment is a tale of ordinary to extraordinary. An intelligent man with a nose for books and impressive knowledge across the spectrum of speed and performance, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to find work. And though Perno discovered an appetite for the automotive industry at an early age— spending countless hours thumbing through the spines of historical and technical text—he didn’t grow up in a wrenching environment. “I had a late start getting to the drag strip because there was no one in my immediate group that was part of that scene,” he said. Add to that, “There was no car in my driveway so everything I wanted (to have and accomplish), I had to do it onmy own. Books, studying, and being an enthusiast on paper was an affordable way for me to get into this lifestyle,” recalled Perno. The quest for a race car, that desire to strap in and burn fuel in a straight line—one could say it was a primal emotion for him. “It really came fromdeepwithin. It was something that I wanted to do (at my very core), even though I didn’t know exactly how I would execute,” he continued. Despite having no clear plan, Perno knew with every fiber of his being that one day he was going to be at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. It would require a full tank of willpower, a few changes in tune, and a backup charge of perseverance but, hell or high water, Perno’s vision was destined to become a reality. First, and against his better judgement, Perno took a big risk. With the support of his wife, he resigned froma secure job and left a cushy pension to pursue ownership of a local speed shop. “I didn’t have guts early enough to damn the consequences. Somewhere in my 30s I thought, ‘We’re running out of time.’ I wanted to be drag racing and if so, I needed a better place to get my stuff than what was out there,” he said. Founded in 1990, The Performance Cellar has established itself as one of the premier speed shops in Ontario, Canada. Like many ventures in Perno’s life, his current success as a business owner more closely resembles a switchback through themountains than the straight line of a drag strip. “I came to the realization about 15 years ago that I needed to do something drastic to really separate me from my contemporaries,” said Perno. At the time, he was consumedwith the notion that all speed shops essentially do the same thing. “We sell trinkets for cars… the same ring and pinion or pistons as anyone else. But what can I give the customer that is value-added beyond the price point? When it comes down to that question, it’s usually knowledge,” he continued. Some of Perno’s deepest soul searching happened at this crossroads, a point in his life when he pondered the real reasons he flipped the store sign to “Open” each day, how he was conducting business up until that point, and his personal and professional interactions with those around him. “Drag racing. It always came back to drag racing,” said Perno. “Having fun… with it, the parts, the customers, the lifestyle,” he exclaimed, “and it was something people always asked me about. So, we stopped trying to do what everyone else was doing and focused on what we knew and what we liked because, honestly, you work harder when you like it.” A revised business plan took shape, one that defies accepted practice. Then again, it’s always been about the road less traveled for Perno. “I don’t need to be concerned with a Shop Profile • Performance Cellar Grit, Spirit, and a New Plan...

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