For those of you anxiously awaiting the reopening of Tehachapi's oldest restaurant, your wait is about to end.
The new owners of Kelcy's Restaurant have announced they will host a soft opening to the iconic eatery in early August, with a grand opening slated to coincide with the Mountain Festival.
Virginia Sheridan and her husband, William "Bill" Lee, have spent the last two years making a slew of improvements to the restaurant to bring the aging building up to code so it could be operational once more.
"There was a lot that Kern County Environmental Health required for the restaurant to reopen," said Sheridan. "Since the restaurant was 50 years old, health standards are a lot stricter."
Necessary improvements included installing a number of sinks, including ones for produce, hand washing for cooks and a mop sink. In addition, the new owners had to install a number of floor drains.
"That was sufficient to get us permission from the county and the city, last year, to open on a part-time basis," Sheridan said.
The restaurant opened last year for Mountain Festival, and has since opened about once a month up until Valentine's Day, but not since.
According to Sheridan, a lot more work had to be completed before the restaurant opened full time, including the removal of all old kitchen appliances, scrubbing the walls and floors, using special floor and molding paint and the removal of all wood surfaces that had contact with food. In addition, the cooler required new shelving throughout and other work.
Said Sheridan, "It has been a very long and expensive process."
According to Lee, he and Sheridan have shared the same main focus as the new owners of the restaurant.
"That's what this is all about," said Lee. "Taking over, redoing and keeping Kelcy's name ... and everything as it is. We want to do as little change as possible, so it will be like stepping back in time."
As part of the restoration process, local freelance photographer Nick Smirnoff approached the new owners to remove the old photographs once located in the restaurant so they could be scanned and archived.
"Both Virginia and Bill were excited about the project and allowed me access to the collection," Smirnoff said.
Smirnoff began the tedious process of removing the old photographs from the glass frames at his studio in his home, which he said was a labor of love.
Said Smirnoff, "We made the decision not to restore or enhance any of the photos or prints at this time. They were replaced in their frames, as we found them, and only scanned."
The old photographs will be hung back on the walls of the restaurant, with the hope and intent that individuals with information on the old photographs can come in and provide it to the new owners to include in the archive, according to Smirnoff.
After the grand opening, Kelcy's Restaurant will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The cafe portion of the restaurant will be open on weekdays, with service extending into the dining room on weekends.
Said Sheridan, "After we get going, we want to add Friday and Saturday nights, and, perhaps eventually, every night for dinner. We are taking it one step at a time and building on each little success."
Sheridan said she and Lee are really excited to reopen the restaurant because everyone in town has come to know and love it, and everyone was heartbroken when it closed.
Said Sheridan, "This is a new adventure for Bill and me. We were long-time regulars of Kelcy's, and, for many years, Bill did the maintenance work for the building. But as far as running the restaurant, we learned over the last year from the crew. They taught us what we need to know."
Sheridan is currently looking for cooks and dishwashers, which she said are "harder to find in this town."
Said Sheridan, "What we have to offer is, of course, working at Kelcy's, and a positive work environment."
Those interested in employment with Kelcy's Restaurant are asked to come into Sheridan's Boutique Home Consignment, located next door at 114 W. Tehachapi Blvd., and fill out an application. Resumes can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Said Sheridan, "Kelcy's is something special that you don't find everywhere. Just to be able to keep that alive means a lot to both of us."