Kelly’s to get new life: Buyer to take charge in new year

  • Future owner of Kelly’s Restaurant KaiQi Herzig, right, stands for a photo with current owner Steve O’Brien on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Future owner of Kelly’s Restaurant KaiQi Herzig, left, chats with Bud Mahoney on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Future owner of Kelly’s Restaurant KaiQi Herzig on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Future owner of Kelly’s Restaurant KaiQi Herzig on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Kelly’s Restaurant owner Steve O’Brien on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Kelly’s Restaurant owner Steve O’Brien on Wednesday morning at the restaurant in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2022 4:17:30 PM

AMHERST — Come the new year, Kelly’s Restaurant, a staple of the Amherst dining scene for nearly 30 years, will transition to a new owner who intends to restore some past favorites, including a lunch menu, and give the spot a new name, all while maintaining the sense of camaraderie that exists among its dedicated customers and waitstaff.

“Kelly’s is a great place for community,” says KaiQi Herzig of Colrain, who is buying the restaurant from Steve O’Brien. “I hear that it’s Cheers without alcohol, a lot.”

Herzig’s decision to run a restaurant comes as he returns from spending the past year traveling across the United States. He said he happened to see the for sale sign in the window while shopping at Mom’s House Convenience Store, located in the same College Street plaza, and, becoming acquainted with the big following Kelly’s has throughout the morning, jumped at the opportunity to take over.

He also appreciated the sense of community and the feeling of a big family. “I didn’t realize how important that was for me,” Herzig said.

Herzig, who had been looking for a restaurant for four months, is no stranger to the food service industry. A decade ago, when he was 16, he began working in area coffee shops and restaurants. He has been a kitchen manager at Baked in Shelburne Falls, and also been part of the crew at Mocha Maya’s, also in Shelburne Falls, Beijing House in Greenfield and the Deerfield Inn.

His vision for Kelly’s is to bring back the basics, whether burgers for lunch and other blue plate specials, or biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict and corned beef hash for breakfast, as well as muffins and stews. He will source as much as possible from local purveyors.

“This will be traditional diner food, all made in house,” Herzig said. “An emphasis is on everything made from scratch, and a lot of care is put into it.”

“It’s not going to be anything fancy, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be special,” Herzig said. “It’s no frills, but is executed really well.”

Kelly’s opened in fall 1993, replacing a similar breakfast and lunch place called Reddy’s, and has continued to serve the earliest risers, like police officers, Department of Public Works employees, firefighters and farmers and even pest extermination crews, to later arriving folks like academics and office workers, and finally retirees and some families. Since reopening after a few months being closed at the onset of the pandemic, the menu has been exclusively breakfast, and Kelly’s closes at 11:30 a.m.

It’s always been known as a place for townies, less the college student crowd, which has ensured a fairly consistent business no matter the time of year.

Herzig wouldn’t disclose how much he paid for the business or what he anticipates the costs of renovations will be, only that it’s not inexpensive. “It’s a huge endeavor to undertake,” Herzig said.

He will replace one of the two griddles with a range and will have to do more back of house work that won’t be noticed by customers. There is also the new signs with a new name for the restaurant, though the artwork on the walls that captures the four New England seasons will likely remain.

“Overall it will look and feel the same,” Herzig said. “It will mostly be the place that those who have come to Kelly’s have come to know.”

The big change will be extending the hours open to 2 p.m. again, though it will be closed on Mondays.

O’Brien said while he spent three decades making Kelly’s, it was the community that has caused its success.

“They’re all part of the family,” O’Brien said as he looks out over the customers, some at the tables and others at the counter.

Over the weekend, when packed with people who wanted to offer well wishes to O’Brien, one of table had three generations of a family, including a father he remembers serving as a child. Moving on, O’Brien said he will miss the town gossip and often being the first to know things.

While could make a guest appearance in the future, his last day standing at the griddles will be Dec. 18.

“I want to let Kai do it his way,” O’Brien said. “The community will support him. They’ve taken care of me very well.”

O’Brien’s silent partner through the years has been his wife, Karin O’Brien, who has handled social media publicity and is pleased that Herzig is allowing current staff to stay on, including her daughter.

“We couldn’t be prouder than to hand over the reins to this young man,” O’Brien said.

On Wednesday, Herzig was at the restaurant, as he had been over the weekend, again greeting some customers who he hopes to get to know better, letting them know the atmosophere and food quality will not change.

Bud Mahoney of Shutesbury, who said he is an occasional customer, usually gets poached eggs, praising Kelly’s as one of the few places that gets them right. “Consistently excellent” is how he terms the food and service there.

One of the regulars, Darrin Brown, who runs Amherst Welding, and whom O’Brien quipped he has known since he was 15, was at the counter and happy to know that lunch would soon be available again. Brown said he is hoping that the corned beef and cabbage will make a come back, and he might resume his twice daily visits.

“It doesn’t matter what you get, it’s always good,” Brown said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate

Jobs



Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy