Cooking Back To His Roots

Kozy Korner owner and chef Kyle Jones poses for a picture in the bar area inside his restaurant located at 124. N. Main St. Mendon. Jones, a St. Marys native, opened the business May 25.
Managing Editor

Kyle Jones has a small family starting out and the St. Marys native understands the value of family — both personally and professionally. 

And despite the talent he has as a chef, Jones wanted to keep his cooking skills near his hometown, while also reopening a staple in small-town Mendon with a family-oriented feel.

The Kozy Korner has a tastefully-long history in Mendon of feeding locals with delicious homemade food and Jones is continuing that tradition with a more modern twist. 

The 2003 Memorial High School graduate reopened the restaurant — once called Deb’s Kozy Korner, but is now the Kozy Korner — May 25 after it closed in late December. It has been a match made in heaven for a chef looking for a place to open his first restaurant and a community hoping someone reopens their long-storied eatery. 

“As strange as it sounds, I was a little timid to open a restaurant in Mendon, but it was just too good of a place to pass up,” he said. “There are people that I think are a little more fragile because of their nostalgia, but once they come and taste it, I think they’ll like it.”

After graduating from high school, Jones attended Orlando Culinary Academy before coming back to the area in the mid-2000s. He worked at a few area restaurants, including working under a master chef — which is the highest certification through the American Culinary Federation. About three years ago, he helped open J. Marie’s Wood-Fired Kitchen and Drinks in Wapakoneta.

“If you ever had their bison burger or their ham and cheese, most of that is my menu,” he said. “A lot of the stuff there, I brought with me. That’s my style and forté.”

After J. Marie’s, Jones said he thought he was tired of working in the restaurant business so he became the head chef at Mercer Health in Coldwater, but he realized he missed the business and only took two and a half months to reopen the Kozy Korner.

“We do everything from scratch,” he said, “We hand-patty our burgers, we pound our loins, we make all of our sauces.”

Jones said he uses higher-quality ingredients, which he has to pay more for but, he believes it is worth it in the long run. The restaurant also uses organic ingredients, which Jones admitted was a risk in the Mendon area, but added that he is looking into using more local ingredients from local farmer’s market. He also grows a lot of his own herbs to help cut costs and keep ingredients fresher.

“We had a footloose response to it a little bit,” he said of people’s taste for his organic ingredients. “But I don’t take it personally and I think I am starting to turn some of them.

“That is my thing, I try to use the most premium ingredients.”

Jones considers the food he serves as American style, but with a twist.

“Some things do seem weird for a small town, but that is what I am trying to do — I think once they try it, they will trust me,” he said.

He also worked at Generations Café for a year about six years ago. There he experienced what the availability of alcohol can do to a restaurant and it influenced him when he opened his own business.

“The alcohol was really the only time we had a belligerent problem,” he said. “Some people don’t like that we don’t have alcohol, but it’s important to me that we didn’t have a liquor license. You can get beer anywhere to where I feel like it is over-saturated.”

Jones was interested in opening a restaurant in his hometown of St. Marys, but he said he lost contact with officials and there were no buildings he was looking at that were up to code to where he did not have to invest thousands of dollars to get it ready.

In the end, however, both Jones and the Kozy Korner needed each other and he couldn’t be happier with the match. 

The restaurant is a 70-seat, family-oriented business with a few bar seats that serves home-cooked food. It accepts credit/debit cards and Google Pay. The diner is located at 124 N. Main St. Mendon. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“I can go to Columbus and do the same thing, but there are so many places that are doing what I am doing to where it was important for me to do this in such a small area,” he said. “Plus, my family is around here and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.”

For the full story, see Friday's print edition of The Evening Leader.