Talk about a busy summer.
Cody and Careline Burke – who met in 2019 while working at Kelley’s Restaurant in McBain – have had an eventful one, to say the least.
Married on June 11th, the McBain graduates took over ownership of Kelley’s Restaurant on July 1st.
And they’re incredibly grateful. Grateful to former owner Kevin Kelley for giving them the opportunity. Grateful for the community that continues to support them. And grateful for their employees that show up for work each and every day.
It wasn’t like these two grew up dreaming of owning a restaurant – but when the opportunity presented itself, they couldn’t say no.
And why not. If it weren’t for Kelley’s, the couple may have never met. Cody says it best: “This is where we started, and this is where we’d like to finish. This is home. And we don’t want to let anybody down – [Kelley’s] is a good name, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
We caught up with the newlyweds recently at their restaurant, and learned more about the couple, and more about their new venture. We learned that Cody and Careline Burke are certainly more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised?
Careline: I was born in Cadillac, at the hospital, and I was raised in McBain. This has always been my hometown, I’ve never left. I went to school here, and I started working here [at Kelley’s] when I was 16.
MP: Did you graduate from McBain? What kept you busy in school?
Careline: I graduated from McBain in 2019. I was involved in a lot of stuff; I did robotics, CTC, National Honor Society, band, working… I did CNET at CTC, it’s computers and networking – I don’t know why I did it, it was fun I guess!? I didn’t really pursue anything from that class, and it’s funny because he did it too.
MP: How about you, Cody? Where were you born and raised?
Cody: I grew up in Cadillac, but my mom married a farmer out here, so both Cadillac and McBain. My family owned the [Burke’s] Waterfront in Cadillac, so between being out here and living in Cadillac, I had the best of both worlds.
I went to school and I graduated here in 2013. I also worked here in high school; it wasn’t my first job, but it was my first job other than the family business – it was my first “real” job.
MP: How long have you two been married?
Cody: This year, in June. June 11th, 2023. [Pastor] Steve Boven married us at Chapel Hill [Church].
MP: Newlyweds! Congrats! What keeps you busy when you’re not here at the restaurant? When you have actual free time?
Cody: We definitely like to go out. I love watching movies; I like going out to the movie theater, a lot. We like to just go to the beach; we love going to the beach. My grandma owns [Burke’s] Waterfront, and my dad lives in Cadillac, right on Lake Mitchell, and I like to drag her there a lot to go swimming – it’s not hard!
Careline: I like to garden, and homestead. We live in Marion.
Cody: We live right on Case St. in a beautiful house.
MP: So tell us about Kelley’s. How did you two come to own Kelley’s Restaurant?
Cody: It was mostly Kevin [Kelley]’s doing. But I was thinking of doing other things with my life, and going other places… He kind of presented this opportunity to us, because someone did the same for him. Someone gave him the opportunity, and he was just passing it along; doing his due diligence and passing it along. He looked at me, and he looked at Careline, and he saw something within us, where he thought we could do it.
Pretty much from the very beginning, when he offered us [the business] it took one conversation about the restaurant, and we pretty much decided that we were going to go for it. How often do you get an opportunity [like that]? Do you want this really demanding, great opportunity? It’s been really great. We’re grateful; I couldn’t tell you how grateful we are.
MP: What is Kelley’s known for? What’s popular here?
Cody: Anything chicken, bacon, ranch; they really like our chicken, bacon, ranch here. Our grilled chicken subs are really good. Burgers, fries, the normal things are always good.
Careline: The square pizza.
Cody: People like the square pizza. Prices on food goes up and goes down. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we don’t have prices on our menu. We try to keep them honest. If they go up, we might have to raise them a little bit, but if they go down, we’ll bring them right back down. That’s why we don’t have anything posted up there – a lot of people have a hard time with that. There are other places that have great deals on pizza, but ours is constantly a great deal on pizza. And if you’re getting a lot of pizza, it’s a good deal.
MP: When did you officially take over the restaurant?
Cody: July 1st. This is our second month of business so far and everything’s good. Nothing’s started on fire! We’ve made a few changes; nothing’s slowed down. We’re doing some of the old specials, and we’re trying to get some new specials on the menu. Some new things around here. We’re trying to keep the same good experience, and good food, and add to it. Just switch it up a little, add a little freshness.
I’m lucky to have my father, who works here in the morning time; he cooks breakfast. Tim Burke. And her little sister works here too – Clara. We’ve got a great set of employees and we’re lucky to have them.
MP: What have you guys enjoyed the most about running your own restaurant?
Careline: It’s pretty rewarding, the satisfaction of just working every day.
Cody: The satisfaction of working hard, and working for something. Before we just worked here, but now everything means a lot more.
Careline: And you get to know a lot more people.
Cody: The community is super important. We know most of the community, coming in, but now we’re really getting everyone’s faces down.
MP: Speaking of community, what have you enjoyed the most about being a part of the McBain community?
Cody: Just knowing everybody. It’s really nice to know everyone. You see old friends come home, and it’s nice, when they come in and support your business.
Careline: Everyone’s been very supportive.
Cody: We’re a pretty tight-knit community. If you’re from here, people are very quick to give a helping hand; and even if you’re not, people will still help. This is a great town. We really have a great town, with a great restaurant, and a great location. You couldn’t ask for anything better. Especially, in the town of McBain, there’s no better place to be. We are right in the heart of McBain. This is where we started, and this is where we’d like to finish. This is home. And we don’t want to let anybody down – this is a good name, and we’d like to keep it that way.
MP: Who have been your role models? Who’s helped get you to where you are today?
Careline: Definitely Kevin. Kevin Kelley. He was the best boss ever; he was awesome. To this day, we still go to him if we need advice or have any questions on anything. He’s basically our mentor.
Cody: I’ve had a lot of different restaurant bosses, and he’s by far my favorite. I’ve worked in the family restaurant, 3 restaurants in Traverse City, and he’s still, by far, the best boss I’ve ever had. Sometimes I say, WWKKD – What would Kevin Kelley do? I’ve worked for a lot of great people… There was one manager who said, “The reason I make you do all this hard work, is so that one day, when you realize it’s worth it, you’ll come back and say ‘Thank you.’” I’ve made those phone calls. I went back and said thank you to all those people, because I really needed it. I realized all the little things they were teaching me back then were really important for now.