The story behind Kayem Foods is as American as the Fenway Franks that made it famous. What started as a small storefront selling kielbasa has grown, over four generations, into a successful producer of hot dogs, sausages, chicken and deli meats sold at the ballpark and distributed throughout New England.
Kazimierz Monkiewicz and his wife, Helena, opened Kayem in 1909 after emigrating from Poland. The company’s name is a play on the founder’s initials – KM. “My great-grandfather, when he first started the business, he had a horse and wagon and would deliver the product through the cobblestone streets of Chelsea,” said Patrick Monkiewicz, vice president of finance. “We still have that wagon today.”
The company has come a long way – Kayem has two factories, a partnership with the Boston Red Sox and plans to expand down the East Coast – but it remains a family business. Patrick worked his way up from groundskeeper; his brother, Matt, models his work ethic after that of his elders. “Nothing good comes easy,” said the vice president of marketing. “Quality is something that comes with full intention and a lot of effort. It doesn’t come to those who sit back and wait for it.”
While not technically family, Bank of America Client Manager Michael Palmer works closely with Kayem’s family ownership. He provides them with strategic counsel in addition to banking services, like his predecessors have since the 1950s. “He’s my go-to guy; the quarterback at Bank of America,” said Patrick. “He connects the dots on all of the different services the bank has to offer.”
Palmer works hard to anticipate his client’s needs and connect them with the right opportunities – something that happens only because he knows the business, and the family behind it, very well. “Even if it’s not something I can deliver, but one of my partners can, we make the connection around it,” he said. Bank of America recently worked with the company on a $6.5 million operation-wide, post-pasteurization effort and has helped to finance several warehouses in Greater Boston.
As big as the company gets, Kayem’s leadership is committed to preserving the family atmosphere established by their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers before them. The company employs several hundred families, including some for several generations. “I think the family members and all of our employees understand that whether you’re family or not, we’re all the same family – the Kayem family,” said Patrick.