The chicken pot pie business is sizzling here in Salem.
Owner/chef Ken Rothwell, 47, opened his first Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken, selling handmade chicken pies, on North Street in 2011. Now he has a fledgling chain.
In September, he expanded to a second location at the corner of Maple and Chestnut streets (Route 129) in Lynn. Last week, he signed a lease and started construction on a third location, in West Peabody, in Bonkers Plaza on Lowell Street.
Rothwell, a Merrimac resident who grew up in Salem’s low-income Point neighborhood, plans to have five retail stores open by fall and is already scouting locations in Revere and Reading. Someday, he says, his dream would be to open a Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken in Sarasota, Fla.
The first store was an extension of his custom catering business and was meant to keep his employees off unemployment in the winter when catering jobs dried up.
“I figured if I could sell 10, 20 chicken pot pies a day, I could keep everybody working, you know. And, now, we sell anywhere from 500 to 800 a day,” he said.
He employs 43 people, about half of whom are full time, and plans to hire another six to 10 full-time workers in the next two months. Before he started Kickin’ Chicken, just four employees worked full time, he said.
Although the catering business is going strong — he has 60 weddings booked so far for this year — it is the chicken pot-pie business that is booming.
The large chicken pot pies weigh in at 5 pounds each and can feed up to six people. They retail for $21. The store also sells small, individual pies for $6.95. The pies are made by hand from fresh ingredients, using Bell & Evans chicken. They have a shelf life of about four days, after which they can be frozen for longer storage.