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Kid Shelleen’s Settles Into a Second Location in Wilmington

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Photos by Joe Del Tufo

Kid Shelleen’s managed to open a second successful location despite COVID-19, supply-chain issues, staffing shortages and more.

Xavier Teixido isn’t one to rest on his laurels—even if they are cushy. The owner of Harry’s Savoy Grill and co-owner of Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House & Saloon has a long list of accolades.

For instance, he is the past chair of the National Delaware Restaurant Association and board chair for the association’s educational foundation.

“Is there anyone older than me still doing this?” asks Teixido, standing behind the 24-seat bar in the new Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House & Saloon in north Wilmington. This year he will be 70, and his visitor is hard-pressed to come up with another seasoned operator with the same verve.

It took all that vigor and more to open the second Kid’s location during COVID-19, supply chain shortages, inflation, staffing issues and just about every other glitch that can befall a new restaurant.

The hard work—and considerable investment—paid off. Kid’s is settling into the Branmar Plaza, and cars crowd the parking lot. “There’s an argument to be made that we will do more revenue here than downtown,” Teixido maintains.

And that’s saying something.

A Long Love Affair

Teixido was present at Kid’s birth in 1984. He was a minority partner with 1492 Hospitality Group, which owned Columbus Inn in Wilmington, Klondike Kate’s in Newark and Harry’s Savoy Grill, among others. Teixido was back in Delaware after working at Commander’s Plaza in New Orleans. Locally, he’d gained cred at The Frog in Philadelphia and Frog Commissary, the restaurant’s catering arm.

Kid Shelleen’s—named for Lee Marvin’s hard-drinking character in Cat Ballou—focused on charcoal-grilled food and a lively bar scene. By 1990, the restaurant at 14th and Scott streets was a Best Bar and Grill winner on reader’s choice lists.

When Teixido departed 1492, he left Kid’s but gained ownership of Harry’s Savoy Grill. Today his personality is so linked to that steakhouse that some assume he is, indeed, Harry. (There is no one namesake.)

In 2010, Teixido, longtime manager Kelly O’Hanlon and chef David Leo Bank purchased Kid Shelleen’s. Banks later left the group to open Banks’ Seafood Kitchen on the Riverfront, previously Harry’s Seafood Grill.

Ten Years in the Making

Teixido and O’Hanlon scouted locations for more than a decade for a second Kid Shelleen’s. The right spot was under their noses. Branmar Plaza is a short drive from Harry’s Savoy and the north Wilmington community where Teixido and wife Nina raised two children.

The market has changed since the Teixidos lived here. The original owners of 1950s- and 1960s-era homes are selling to young families. “We’ve been waiting for this transition to happen for a long time,” Teixido says of the demographics. Under his and O’Hanlon’s ownership, Kid’s has become a family-friendly concept.

While the Trolley Square location has a tight circumference of regular customers, the suburban site can reach a broader audience—including diners in nearby Pennsylvania communities. “They’ve been traveling to go to a place like this,” Teixido says. Some suburbanites may never have visited the original restaurant near the Wawaset, Highlands and 40 Acres neighborhoods.

Can Kid’s emit the same vibe in the ’burbs? The chances are good. The color palette of chocolate brown and terra cotta and the mix of brick and warm wood echo the original’s Ballou Room. Chair seats sport decorative nail tacks, and photographs by Leo Matkins highlight Philly sports legends from the 1980s. TVs broadcast sports above the front-and-center bar.

It’s contemporary, clubby and masculine. Teixido calls it comfortable, and those accustomed to Harry’s Savoy may require an adjustment. The newcomer is not the place for prime rib. Instead, it’s about juicy and creative burgers, such as the Cat Ballou with brie, tomatoes, Kennett mushroom and green leaf lettuce.

Indeed, the main link between the old and the new Kid’s is the menu, which is similar. Fans can find the Southwestern chicken salad, chicken corn chowder and French onion soup, and shareable nachos. There have been changes over the years, including the addition of a quinoa turkey bowl, Beyond Burger and tuna ceviche.

The supplier services all three restaurants, and to ensure consistency, Harry’s Hospitality hired chef Steve Forte to oversee the restaurants and Harry’s Savoy Ballroom.

Overcoming Obstacles

Originally, the new Kid’s was going into space formerly occupied by a WSFS branch. Walgreens, however, wanted a drive-through, and a game of musical stores ensued. Kid’s wound up in Action Hardware’s old location, which is also an endcap.

It took time for four businesses to relocate, which resulted in construction delays. Supply issues created more logjams. For instance, the bar needed PVC for beer lines before the floor’s installation. “We couldn’t get them,” Teixido says. “We waited two months.” A deep freeze in Texas led to refrigeration foam shortages.

They waited months for electrical panels. Meanwhile, prices soared. A walk-in refrigerator jumped from about $28,000 to $65,000. As Kid’s neared the opening, the workforce was in short supply. Fortunately, Kid’s can tap the sister locations, although it creates scheduling issues. “We’re busy here and there,” O’Hanlon notes. “The back of the house is where we’re struggling.” It’s a national problem, and like other restaurants, Kid’s opened on limited days and without serving lunch or brunch. That should change as the staff bulks up.

There is a silver lining: The switch in locations gave Kid’s more real estate—6,000 square feet versus 3,500—and more visibility. The partners carved out a bespoke kitchen, which includes extra space for takeout, which has flourished since the pandemic. There is also a generously sized patio with 60 seats, another in-demand feature. The partners were thrilled when their plans for an outdoor wet bar were approved.

Xavier Teixido Isn’t Ready for Retirement

Teixido keeps telling O’Hanlon that he’s on a five-year plan toward retirement. “I’ve heard that for 10 years,” she quips. However, Teixido discovered during the pandemic that the restaurant business is not keeping him from pursuing his dreams or hobbies. What’s more, he wants to live in the present, not sit around and talk about the glory days of Delaware hospitality.

That isn’t to say the well-traveled Teixido has his nose to the grindstone. He trusts O’Hanlon to take control. “That’s my future right there,” he says with a nod in her direction. “Kelly can do anything she wants to do, and I want to keep her around. She’s tough when she needs to be tough, but fair.”

O’Hanlon tells her mentor that she’s learned to view the business through his “lenses.” Based on Teixido’s past success, it’s a good vantage point.

Related: Scout Café Is a Cozy Hideaway for Coffee Lovers in Wilmington

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