It's not easy to let go of something you built your entire life around. Just ask Kathy Bassler, owner of Kelcy's Restaurant. With tear-filled eyes, Bassler explained why the time has come for her to let go of Tehachapi's oldest restaurant.
"My parents started it in 1969," Bassler said of the family-owned and operated restaurant.
Bassler's parents, Kelcy and Marge Owens, originally bought the restaurant from Velda and Ray Trusty, and it has been in the family ever since. A cafe has been located in the same building since Vaughn Squires opened the first one in 1933.
At age 16, Bassler began working at her parents' restaurant as a waitress. Now, 48 years later, she has put the iconic eatery up for sale.
Said Bassler, "After they bought the restaurant, my mother and father ran it, then in 1975, my mother decided that it was too much, so I came in as the manager with my dad. Between the two of us, we did it all."
Kelcy's dining room is fondly referred to as "Tehachapi's other museum." The walls are filled with old photographs, antique tools, artwork and Tehachapi memorabilia of all kinds. Many of the photos depict the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake that devastated more than 70 percent of downtown and killed a dozen people. Most of the memorabilia and fixtures are included in the sale price.
"I'm looking to have a little bit of time for me. My son was raised in here. When my parents were gone, he was down here with me while I was working until we closed up. Later, he started working in here as a busser," said Bassler.
"I remember playing here at night with the waitresses if they weren't busy," said Jeff Killingsworth, who took over the job as maintenance man from his grandfather. His wife, Tonya, also works at the restaurant as a waitress. Their two daughters have also spent their lives playing at and working inside the restaurant.
When she lost her father in 2008 followed by her mother in 2012, Bassler said she also lost a part of the restaurant's heart.
"It's been quite a ride, but since they have been gone, it's not the same," she said. "It's time for somebody else to get a good investment in the building."
The property, located at 110 W. Tehachapi Blvd., is listed with Coldwell Banker Best Realty. At 8,500 square feet, it includes retail spaces on either side, occupied by longtime renters Sheridan's Boutique Home Consignment and Trains Etc, plus a large parking area in the back of the restaurant.
"It (Kelcy's) is a legacy that we would like to carry on, but after this amount of time, I'm tired," said Bassler. "It's not something I can keep doing and pass on to him (Jeff) because he has a life... and you have to be here 24/7."
Bassler said she hopes to keep the restaurant open until she finds a buyer.
"It's going to depend on my means and everything else I got going on," she said. "It's going to be hard to let go of all the memories and the family aspect of it, with all the people we have come to know."
Killingsworth said he is going to miss the restaurant once his mother sells it.
"It's been an important part of my life," he said. "The people that are here are important. It's also hard for us to keep it going, being here for so long."
Said Bassler, "There is a lot of history on these walls. If they could talk about all the different families in town, it would be quite the conversation, I would imagine."
Interested buyers are asked to contact Coldwell Banker Best Realty at 822-5553.