It was just a August morning for Ken DeMarco Jr., until he received a call from one of his cooks at Scramblers.
There was smoke in the building, but he couldn’t find any flames. He implored his cook to find the source of the fire, but he couldn’t feel any heat either. DeMarco, a Johnston resident, got dressed and headed down Route 295 toward Route 10. As he was making his way to the restaurant, he saw news trucks from Channels 10 and 6 in front of him.
“I don’t want to go in front of people on television,” DeMarco said of that Aug. 22 morning, which saw an electrical fire shut Scrambler’s down. “What do you say? What ended up happening was, I go through, I get here, I can’t pull in. My heart’s in my mouth. I remember I tried going upstairs to the office and [the firemen] are blocking me. They’re saying ‘You can’t go up there.’ I didn’t think it was the Towering Inferno but I sure remember being real nervous, real sick to my stomach.”
There was smoke and water damage in the building, and DeMarco knew it would take some time to re-open. He had to make upgrades to the building, install another fire alarm and add new seats and a ceiling.
He took over operations from his father, Ken, a few months ago, after he held the reins for 15 years. Ken Jr. reopened the building Tuesday, July 25, and it was re-branded as Kenny’s Place. DeMarco said he changed the name so the restaurant wouldn’t be pigeonholed as just a breakfast location.
“Everybody thinks of scrambled eggs, no one thinks of lunch and dinner,” DeMarco said of the Scramblers name. “[With] Kenny’s they’re not going to think of that.”
DeMarco ran the Smithfield location in the early 2000s before he departed for Harvard to earn an English degree. Now, with his father’s heart condition, he decided to take on running the business for himself.
“He got sick again last year so I said, ‘Let me take a crack at it,’” DeMarco said, sitting at a table near the back of the restaurant on Friday. “I think I could do a really good job. People are going to like the food. I think, when you put your heart and sole into something and you’re passionate, I think people see that and the returns will be twofold.”
That passion drove DeMarco through the difficult winter months, which would often see him shoveling himself out before driving to the restaurant and digging out a path for the mailman.
Just less than a year later, the fruits of his labor are on display at 1045 Reservoir Ave.
“I thought we’d be open quicker,” DeMarco said. “Then you’re paying the gas bill and electric, [and] there’s no one in here. And it comes to the point where, now, I see people in here and I can’t believe it happened in a year.”
DeMarco said business has been “OK” since doors opened again in late July, but word is still trickling out that Kenny’s is back up and running.
While re-painting parts of the building is on his agenda for the future, for now he wants to focus on bringing back his customer base.
“I want to get going and get the people back, my customers back,” DeMarco said. “Once I do that, we’ll be up and running. The food’s going to be spectacular. I think people are going to be happy.”
The current hours for Kenny’s Place are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.