KEIFER'S BELONGS TO JACKSON
Since it's opening in 1980, Rick Olson and Paula Coe have hooked the masses on hummus, gyros and their famous feta dressing. A quick check on Facebook is a testament to the cult following with the fan page "Feta dressing from Keifer's makes anything taste good" showing about 1,300 fans from all over the state to California, New York, Florida and even Australia.
While living in Atlanta and working in the food service industry in the 1970s, Rick had convinced Paula to move to the Caribbean to open a restaurant. Recipes had been developed, a location had been picked, and they had boarded a plane to seal the de4al. A bizarre incident that led to a fire on the plane's wing changed their fate and brought them to Jackson.
Having spent her college years at MILLSAPS and with her family still here, Paula suggested finding a location in Belhaven or what is now the Fondren area. "We found the house on Poplar and moved to Jackson two weeks later," recalls Paula. "We worked on renovating the house day and night and lived there during the process."
Expecting to draw a college clientèle, both Rick and Paula were surprised by the response at the opening of Keifer's. "I was the only one cooking," notes Rick, "and we opened to a line that stretched all the way to North State Street. And, it was mainly people from the medical community. We were running like mad to keep up that day and it hasn't stopped." Their following has continued to grow and, on any given day, Keifer's is packed with not only the medical community, but college students, business people and the older generations.
At opening, Keifer's seated 50 people (compared to today's 225 person seating) and made feta dressing in a small food processor. Today, the famous condiment is made in 60-gallon batches three times per week. The building in the parking lot is now used as a prep room with two people working there all day.
The hummus recipe and pita are proprietary to Keifer's. "We make our hummus so that it tastes good to our taste buds," describes Rick. " We make it with a coarse texture, never use cumin, and keep it on the plain side, topped with olive oil and olives. The pita is made exclusively for Keifer's in a Chicago bakery. No one else has it, and it is part of what makes our unique taste."
After 29 years of partnership at Keifer's, Rick and Paula remain great friends and are connected to their employees as well. "This has just never felt like work to us," describes Paula, "and we hope our customers feel that when they come to Keifers."
(Article courtesy on Portico Jackson Magazine. July 2009. by Lisa Flynt)