After a chaotic 2020, Dennis and Jill Kelley are stepping away from their nearly 12-year catering business to regroup and decide what’s next.
By Matt Skoufalos | May 20, 2021
After a difficult 2020, Silver Spoon Catering and Peter James BYOB owners Dennis and Jill Kelley say they’re “taking a hiatus” from the business that’s as old as their relationship.
Having grown their brand in a handful of locations from Cherry Hill to Haddon Township, the couple opened their first customer-facing storefront at 142 Haddon Avenue in Westmont in 2015, where they also housed the kitchen that powered their catering business.
In January 2020, they’d remodeled that storefront to accommodate fine dining guests in a setting reminiscent of the New Orleans restaurants where Dennis Kelley had cut his teeth as a chef.
Christened Peter James BYOB, after the couple’s adopted pit bull, the restaurant was only open for a few brief months before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shut it down.
By August of that year, the Kelleys had yielded the Haddon Avenue location to Dar’s Cheesesteaks, and purchased a building at 901 White Horse Pike. They hoped to relaunch Peter James BYOB there, and continue their catering business in the former Los Jalapenos storefront.
“We finally were able to buy our location, [which] we thought [would be] our home base,” Dennis Kelley said, “and then March came along, and it was a complete standstill.”
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Despite a pivot to takeout orders and a handful of outdoor events, elimination of the larger, corporate catering jobs that had been the bread and butter of Silver Spoon ultimately undercut its base, Jill Kelley said.
“We bought this building with the hopes that the corporate accounts were paying for everything and the in-house stuff would be on top of that,” Jill Kelley said. “[But] everybody was working from home.”
“Jobs we had two years out, all of them completely disappeared due to regulations,” Dennie Kelley said. “Bills keep coming in. [We said], ‘let’s regroup; let’s take a hiatus and then see how things really are.’
“It’s crazy that a year can crush an eleven-and-a-half-year business that literally was built on word of mouth,” he said.
If and when the couple decides to relaunch the business, they’ll have to decide whether to continue with the catering side of things, run a restaurant or both. Dennis Kelley said he’d like any future version of Peter James to retain the small, intimate feel of the BYOB established in Westmont.
“This can really be a new time to rebirth in the industry when I’m ready to bring it back on,” he said.
“I’m not getting rid of the name; I still have my business. We need to figure out the new normal for our company.”
Jill Kelley said the time off is a “silver lining” that will give the couple some much-needed headspace to regroup and gather themselves before considering whatever may follow.
“Of course, we’re going to miss our business for sure,” she said.
“I think it will do us good to take a little bit of a hiatus and come back in the future,” Jill Kelley said.
“I would love to travel and learn about different cuisines and stuff like that, come back even stronger.”
The decision to move on from the current incarnation of the business helped Dennis Kelley end an emotional battle that had started to take its toll.
“It’s hard to think about regrouping when you’re constantly putting out fires,” he said. “I was working too much in it instead of on it. Right now, I’m just trying to clear my head, remember what life’s really about, and see people I haven’t seen in close to 20 years.”
In the meantime, Dennis Kelley said he’s wrenching on some cars and helping some friends with odd jobs. Jill said she gets to reap “all the benefits of Dennis’ creativity” when he cooks at home. And Peter James himself “is great,” she said.
“It’s a very, very special time, and I truly hope that we go back to it,” Jill Kelley said. “We had a blast. We’re blessed to come out.”
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