Longtime Kelsey’s Steak House employees Tracey Brys and Carolyn McKean reflect on their journeys with the restaurant

Longtime Kelsey’s Steak House employees Tracey Brys and Carolyn McKean reflect on their journeys with the restaurant
By: Julia Demma Last Updated: November 6, 2019

Tracey Brys, server of 16 years at Kelsey’s Steak House, and Carolyn McKean, server of 26 years, have both accredited the restaurant to many of the joys throughout their time there. 

For Brys, she originally decided to apply for the job when she moved into a new home in the area. Looking to fully furnish her family’s new home, Brys knew picking up a part-time serving job working two to three nights a week would supply her with the cash she needed for her family.

Before coming to work for Kelsey’s, Brys acquired a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Purdue Northwest. She always knew she wanted to go to school and achieve this but says she is grateful that she can spend the majority of her time with her children instead of working a 9-5 shift during the week. 

“After I first graduated, it was hard to find a workplace that allowed me a time window to pick my kids up from school,” Brys said. “Even though it was always the plan to get my degree, my true passion is being there for my children and spending time with them.” 

Being a stay at home mom, Brys was thankful for the opportunity at Kelsey’s not only for the steady income but also for the flexible hours made available to her.

“Here, I am scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and if I need to switch shifts with anyone, they are usually quick to jump at the opportunity since the weekends are our busiest days,” Brys said. 

One of her favorite aspects of serving is building relationships with her customers and co-workers. She enjoys working alongside her best friend of ten years, Lori, who she met through working at the restaurant. The two work in the banquet room and make quite the team. 

“It’s teamwork for sure. We spend our time setting up the banquet room for busy nights, chit-chatting as we do so,” she said. “When the guests come in, we work even more as a team, watching each other’s’ tables and making sure everyone is waited on.” 

Along with her friendship with Lori, Brys says she has also made other strong friendships during her time at the restaurant. 

“The staff at Kelsey’s is very close-knit. Since the restaurant is closed on Mondays, we plan fun outings such as beach days, bowling, and picnics. We also have a bunco group which is really fun,” Brys said.  

Above all, Brys is thankful to Kelsey’s for providing her with financial stability while simultaneously allowing for free time to be spent with her children. 

“It’s a nice place to work, there’s a great environment. I’m a people-person and that makes this job a perfect match,” she said. “I also get to spend time with and be a mother to my children, which is my true passion in life.” 

For McKean, she has been a part of much of the restaurant’s history and has been there since its early days. Kelsey’s original owner, Ken Blaney Sr., was McKean’s classmate at Valparaiso High School. 

“Ken suggested that I stop into Kelsey’s and apply, so I took him up on it,” she said. “I ended up getting the job and worked at one of the original Kelsey’s in Valparaiso located right by Valpo Furniture.” 

You can find McKean busy at work on any Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. She is known as a go-to person who is always willing to help a co-worker when she can to pick up one of their shifts if needed. 

“It’s kind of like one big family here at Kelsey’s. We all try to have each other’s backs,” McKean said. 

Because McKean has been a part of Kelsey’s team for so long, she knows the ins and outs of the business. With this type of experience and knowledge, it isn’t uncommon for younger employees to come to her for guidance or advice. 

“I’m kind of like a mother figure to most of the staff,” McKean said. “I always try to help where I can.”

Through the many years and time spent as part of the Kelsey’s family and experiencing the changes that have come with it, McKean always keeps one thing in mind:

“You just have to go with the flow. I’ve always tried to adapt to the situation, whatever it may be, and I’ve seen many good changes happen over the years.”

One of McKean’s favorite aspects of her job at Kelsey’s is interacting with her customers and building bonds with them.  

“I get to see many regular customers, and I’ve gotten to know them well. I was recently invited to one of my customers’ Labor Day picnics,” she said. “We also try to help out or send a card when one of our regulars is sick. We get so used to seeing them all the time that when they are gone for a while, we really notice and miss them.” 

McKean has enjoyed being a part of the various yearly Kelsey’s Steak House traditions with each passing year.

“I love being here; I really enjoy coming into work. I especially love helping out at the Popcorn Festival each year,” she said. 

In her free time, McKean loves spending time with her grandchildren and going to community events with them. 

To learn more about Kelsey’s Steak House, visit: http://kelseyssteakhouse.com/.