A look back at the charmed life of local restaurateur Ki Holcomb of Ki’s

I had the pleasure recently of writing about Ki’s and hearing the story of Ki Holcomb, who founded Ki’s back in 1980 from son Barry and daughter Janet Holcomb.

Photo “Local treasure Ki Holcomb from the cover of her CD” photo courtesy Janet Holcomb

Photo “Local treasure Ki Holcomb from the cover of her CD” photo courtesy Janet Holcomb

I never had the opportunity to meet Ki, but she certainly left her mark on the local community and dining scene and was loved by many. Ki passed away March 18.

Janet Holcomb was kind enough to provide me with Ki’s story, and I felt compelled to share it with Coast News readers. I hope you enjoy it and have a chance to stop into Ki’s and experience what her children have done with this local treasure.

Ki was born on Dec. 26, 1925 in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, the third child of 7 to John Raymond Boylan and Nora Anderson Boylan. At the age of 3 they discovered she could sing, and as a “depression baby” her father made money by having her sing at night in local bars and restaurants.  Ki continued to earn money for their very poor family after her father died when she was 12 and her mother passed three years later.  Ki and her twin Betty became dance instructors for Arthur Murray in Indianapolis where she met her future husband James Holcomb. They married after knowing each other 6 weeks on Valentine’s Day in 1947 and their marriage lasted 66 years.

As a couple Ki and James became specialty managers for Arthur Murray Dance studios. From 1951, when their son Phil was born, until 1957, their jobs were to establish new dance studios and train the new instructors and studio managers. Children Janet, Tim, and Barry followed and in 1957 they settled back in Indianapolis where their father created his company Survad and Ki became a stay-at-home mom who was adored by her children.  Their home became the neighborhood gathering spot for all of the kids because of their mother’s welcoming nature, no child was ever turned away and there was always enough dinner for their friends.

In September of 1971 the family moved to Del Mar where their father entered and completed his PhD in Clinical Psychology.  Living in California began her interest in healthy eating, so she began cooking more fish and stir-fry entrees for the family and in 1978 she went to work at a vitamin store called Henry’s in Solana Beach where fresh squeezed vegetable juice was also served. After a year or so she decided she could manage a store of her own and in 1980 she opened the original Ki’s Juice Bar on Birmingham in Cardiff, at the young age of 55.

Ki’s started as a Health Food Store with vitamins, bulk food items, natural cosmetics and fresh juice; much like a very small Jimbo’s or Sprouts with Ki as the only employee. Being the great mom that she was, she began making sandwiches and smoothies for the young beach crowd in the neighborhood and eventually began making her homemade soups on a hot plate. After a couple years Barry built her a kitchen in the back of the store and the legend began. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served and Ki was there to greet her new family 7 days a week.

As the business grew and Barry got more involved, Ki expanded her interests to include dance instruction to senior citizens at Palomar Community College and in Fallbrook, and to acting and singing in several musicals locally including the North Coast Repertory Theatre. When Ki’s moved to Highway 101 in 1994, Ki and Jim enrolled in a Big Band class at Mira Costa Community College and met several musicians who then formed Ki’s Guys. For over 15 years Ki’s Guys performed at Ki’s and at other community events and in 2003 we recorded her one and only CD.

In 2001 the family noticed Ki’s memory beginning to decline, and the onset and advance of her dementia was very slow. They were able to enjoy life with Ki at home until 2012 when they moved to Pacific Place for full time care. Until that time she could be seen every night at Ki’s with her husband enjoying dinner and every Monday night singing with Ki’s Guys.

Ki certainly left her mark on the area and I’d like to thank her daughter Janet for providing this look at her life. Next time you are at Ki’s in Cardiff, raise a toast to this local treasure. www.kisrestaurant.com




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