Kelsey and Kim’s will expand to include a third location at the corner of Kentucky and Pacific avenues called A.C.’s Southern Touch.
For this year's Restaurant Week (back in March), I decided to visit a little known jewel in Atlantic City’s uptown section, Kelsey and Kim’s, whicht has only been at its Melrose Avenue location for two years.
The original take-out place is still in Galloway and within the next few months, Kelsey and Kim’s will expand to include a third location at the corner of Kentucky and Pacific avenues called A.C.’s Southern Touch.
Spending time with this husband and wife team was humorous and inspiring. As I observed the playful interaction between the two of them, I could tell why they’ve been successful in a difficult niche, the restaurant business.
Kim, born and raised in Atlantic City, has a business background and handles that side of everything while Kelsey — whose real name is Kesley — has a passion for food and people enjoying it.
He told me the funniest story about how his name is really “Kesley,” but throughout his life, teachers would switch the s and the l and call him “Kelsey” until it finally stuck. From there, I learned the sad story of how he and his mother relocated to A.C. from North Philly after his older brother was shot.
His father moved to Florida with his other brothers and within a few years, young Kesley lost his mother to cancer. His father returned to the area while he was in high school and insisted that he find a summer job to buy his own school clothes.
Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant hired him as a dishwasher, a job he hated, and he quickly worked his way up to the nacho bar and other specialties. Obviously, this young man was driven.
After high school, his father helped him get work at Tropicana, but he was unwittingly laid off only to find himself interviewing at Trump Marina, where he told the hiring person that he was “a fast learner and a hard worker.” He was hired on the spot and stayed for 17 years, leaving with lots of accolades, well-wishers and a great party, something Kelsey still loves.
Private parties, barbecues and food vending are how Kelsey and Kim got started while they both worked full-time jobs and raised four children, two sons and two daughters. Those were much more difficult years, Kim told me, especially after their youngest son was diagnosed with Leukemia. He’s doing well now at North Carolina A&T as are the other children.
They grew up in the business, but three have moved on to pursue other careers. This reminded me so much of growing up in my own family’s restaurant business: everyone pulling together, the long hours, the non-stop hustle and bustle of getting each family member’s needs and interests met while establishing a business. I had to ask them how they balanced it all.
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