It’s nestled on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in the city of Rolling Hills Estates where natives still ride on horseback and there are few streetlights. 

Generations on the hill have grown up with Kelly’s Korner, a family-owned and operated deli shop that opened in 1984. 

“We kind of grow up with the kids growing up year after year,” said Owner Jim Kelly when asked what makes his business special. 

“It’s still country (here),” he added of the area that has been home to his business for 35 years. 

Kelly, who first worked in airline catering, had traveled the world when he decided to settle down and purchase the spot while his children were still young.

“I thought oh, my kids are growing up right in front of me, in front of my face and I won’t have time to enjoy them,” he said.

The modest location, connected to the Rolling Hills General Store, was originally a candy store during the Reagan era. 

But, Kelly knew he would have to up the ante if he wanted to be successful.

“I thought, I can’t just stand here looking out the window, I’ve got to go beat the bushes and get some customers,” he said.

Kelly found a reliable customer base serving up school lunches, an endeavor that put Kelly’s Korner on the map as a local favorite for affordable sandwiches and salads.

“When you sell 150 sandwiches at a school and then the kids would go and tell their parents to try Kelly’s Korner, that’s like free advertising,” explained Kelly’s son Brian, who works with his father in the deli. 

But, in 2010, things changed.

The passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which funded federal school meal programs for public schools, greatly impacted their business, said Brian.  

“It’s gotten harder because we used to do more lunches for schools,” Brian explained. “The public schools have a lot of regulation now and that kind of hurt us big time.”

The deli has overcome some of those challenges, he added, by providing lunch at private schools.

The loyal following Kelly’s Korner has earned on the hill has also helped one of the last remaining mom and pop shops stay afloat.

“We just try to do the best we can,” Jim said. “We feel good going home at night knowing that...everybody got a fair, decent item of whatever they wanted.” 

As for the founder’s favorite item on the menu?

“That’s a good question...I like pesto veggies with mozzarella cheese, melted. That’s a favorite,” Jim continued.

Brian added it’s hard to predict what the future of the business will be.

“We’ll either keep it going if we can survive or maybe sell it and move on,” he said.

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