Papa Kelsey’s owners closing doors as retirement beckons

Pat and Mariyln Olson, owners of Papa Kelsey’s restaurant, are retiring at the end of July.

Papa Kelsey’s Pizza and Subs will close its doors July 31, and no matter how much customers beg owners Pat and Marilyn Olson to keep it open, they have their hearts set on retirement and a break from the restaurant business. 

“One person threatened to come in and tear down my sign,” Marilyn Olson said. “They don’t want us to go at all.”

Papa Kelsey’s has been a Grand Junction establishment for 23 years, with the Olsons owning and operating the restaurant for the past five years, overseeing the location change from 12th Street to its current location, 1141 N 25th St.

The Olsons took over the business from their son after Colorado Mesa University bought the 12th Street property to turn into parking spaces.

“We sat there and figured, we can’t really let Papa Kelsey’s die,” Pat Olson said.

After 14 months of property hunting and remodeling, they were serving up their specialty, the Executioner, on North 25th Street. Since taking over ownership, the Olsons have spent countless hours keeping Papa Kelsey’s up and running, walking a thin line between the exhaustion of running a restaurant and the joy of friendships formed with regular customers.

“I think that’s the biggest argument against closing. We’ve met a lot of people in five years, a lot of friends, and if we’re not here ... then we don’t get to see them,” Pat Olson said.

Marilyn Olson, who can ring up regular customers’ orders before they reach the register, also said her biggest problem with closing was leaving the people she’s gotten to know. “I’m going to miss the customers, I’m going to miss my employees. We know these people that well ... they’re just wonderful,” she said.

Though the Olsons are ready to embrace retirement, they’re open to passing the reins of Papa Kelsey’s to someone else.  “We would like Papa Kelsey’s to continue if somebody were to come forward and purchase it,” Marilyn Olson said.


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