Ken Weiss is the owner and operator of KJ’s Pickel Barrel in Edwardsville. The business, a deli, specializes in “soups, salads, sandwiches and subs” and opened in 2012. Weiss, 38, is a native of Edwardsville and a 1995 graduate of Bishop O’Reilly High School. He is also a graduate of East Stroudsburg University, where he earned a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. He lives in Edwardsville.
Did you have a background in restaurants before you opened KJ’s Pickel Barrel? “I’ve always been in food. I went to school for restaurant management. Before this I spent time in both operations and sales. With operations, I worked for Ruby Tuesdays for five years, right out of school. Then I spent a year at the Westmoreland Club as the food and beverage manager. I was also in sales as a food broker with KeyImpact Sales, which is the largest food broker in the nation. And right before opening this, I was a salesman for U.S. Foods.”
Why did you decide to open your own business? “It was always my intention. It was a goal, from my time in college, that at a certain age I would leave working for someone else and open my own place. It was always in the back of my mind. It was just timing.”
What’s your favorite item on your own menu? “I have two favorites, a cold sandwich and a hot sandwich. The Italian is my favorite cold. Basically, that’s how I grade any sandwich shop or deli I go into. I order the Italian, and however it turns out is pretty much how I determine whether I like the place or not. With the hot, I like the Ruben, which is a very traditional sandwich, but I’m fairly certain we make the best one in the valley.”
You recently expanded, correct? “Yes. We expanded and took over the unit next door. We opened up the wall and added seven tables and 20 seats.”
What do you do in your free time to relax? “Nowadays, not too much. I don’t have too much free time. I’m here all the time. But I like music, gardening, hiking, camping – anything outdoors.”
Hobbies? “Vinyl. I won a bunch at an auction, and then slowly but surely began buying more and more.”
Favorite music? “That’s tough to say. I like a lot of music. I like a lot of classic rock, jam bands and modern alternative. I’m all over the board with music. I used to always say R.E.M. was my favorite band. I think they’re the ones that really created alternative rock. When I go to visit my fraternity at ESU, I learn a little bit about hip-hop, because that’s what they seem to like to play at the fraternity house all the time.”
Follow sports? “Yankees and Steelers.”
Favorite color? “Green.”
First car? “A 1985 Dodge Reliant K-car. It was black with a red interior.”
Favorite city? “I like visiting Philly. Philly’s always a good time.”
Favorite food? “Wings. I actually just gave them up for a year. We’ll see how that goes.”
Favorite vacation spot? “Fort Lauderdale.”
Favorite holiday? “Fourth of July.”
All-time favorite movie? “Gladiator.”
Favorite TV show? “Right now it’s the ‘Big Bang Theory.’ I love it. I also watch ‘60 Minutes’ every Sunday.”
Proudest professional moment? “Opening the business. It was always a lifelong dream and it came to fruition.”
Alan K. Stout is a regular contributor to Weekender. In addition to the MEET feature, he also writes about the NEPA music scene.
MEET is a new feature in Weekender that profiles local people from throughout NEPA.