Port Shorts – K&J Seafood
This is the story of two African American women living out a dream to open a restaurant and serve Cajun cuisine.
This is the story of K&J Seafood.
Joy Willis, Co-Owner, K&J Seafood: This all started when we, honestly just, we had tossed around the idea for years just joking about it. Keyona would always say that there's no place to get authentic crab boils like she got down south, and in the time that she lived there and the time that I spent going to visit her, we felt like we had kind of crafted the perfect crab boil.
Keyona Armstead, Co-Owner, K&J Seafood: We sold about 80 to 100 dinners our first time ever selling crab boils right out of my house, and it was a hit, it took off. That was that's pretty much how it started.
Joy: We had lots of friends and family say oh this is the best crab boil I've ever had, and we thought, “Oh you know, maybe one day we could do this or some extra money.” That's really how it all started.
Joy: Within after doing it for maybe two to three months, Keyona and I both looked at each other and realized that we had crafted a menu - a full menu right out of the house - and we looked at each other and said, “I think we got something.”
Why Cajun cuisine?
Keyona: We wanted to incorporate a little jazz, drinks, and soul to Cincinnati. So, we knew we wanted to do New Orleans-themed seafood because they are culturally known for having good flavorful food. We just kind of thought of a slogan, and we came up with “Bringin Nawlins to the Nati.”
Challenges along the way
Keyona: I think that we probably faced every challenge that you can probably imagine. We have faced financial issues; we have faced issues with the buildings; we have faced issues with not knowing proper accounting; we have faced inventory issues with products.
How The Port helped
Keyona: The Port, they were able to shed a new light on what we were already doing. We prayed for the opportunity to be able to have what we now have, so what The Tort was able to do was they were able to give us the opportunity, but they were able to magnify the amount of orders we are able to produce. They were able to magnify the amount of employment. We love The Port. It's been such a good experience working with them, and they have turned things around for us
Why the Bond Hill Business District?
Keyona: It really makes me proud that, not only is it minority-owned, but we're all women. It feels good to be around like-minded entrepreneurs.
Dreams really do come true
Joy: To see that we're able to run functionally in a kitchen that is three times the size of anything we've ever done, without having any formal training, that makes me extremely proud.
Joy: If someone had told me that we were going to have opened three businesses within a matter of three years, and been pretty successful at it - some pitfalls, some moves, some closures – overall, just in a good place, successful and happy with where we are in business, I would have absolutely never believed it.
Keyona: Joy and I have conversations and say, “Wow. Can you believe that this is where we are? Wow. It's a dream come true.”