With more than 45 years as purveyors serving hunting and sporting enthusiasts, Kevin and Kathleen Kelly take immense pride in sharing the lifestyle they have long endeavored to cultivate in this region.
Whether you live in this part of the country or are just visiting, there is something so very special about the Red Hills Region. No matter if you are a lifelong hunter or new to the sport, it is something you can just feel.
That surge of pride for the land and what grows here.
The lift in your spirit when you see a covey rise of quail.
The smile that forms on your lips when you pass a plantation doing a controlled burn.
This is the lifestyle of the region and one that Kevin & Kathleen Kelly embody in all they do.
Passion for the Lifestyle
What started as a general sporting goods store – selling guns and gear to avid outdoorsmen – has grown into something of an empire for the Kelly family. Kevin always had a passion for hunting and fishing and wanted to provide the best gear for his customers.
He knows them.
He is them.
They share the same values.
Longtime friend and prominent land broker, Jon Kohler, is one of those very customers who shares these values and appreciates the way in which the Kellys embody this lifestyle. Jon says, “People don’t really realize that quail hunting is synonymous with a lifestyle, land management, habitat management, habitat improvement all year. From landowners to plantation managers, and guests – there are so many people with a vested interest in sustaining and supporting this lifestyle. Kevin and Kathleen get that.”
What started as a Tallahassee outpost has since grown to include their flagship location in downtown Thomasville and a wildly successful catalog and on-line business, spearheaded by Kevin’s wife, Kathleen. They still offer the finest hunting clothes and equipment but expanded their offerings to encompass the whole lifestyle that this region embraces.
Just off the bricks of Thomasville’s Broad Street, step inside the store to find sumptuous table settings and home décor that give a nod to all things quail and the outdoor life here. From placemats to candlesticks, linens and flatware, Spode dinnerware and metal serving pieces emblazoned with hallmarks of the Hills – your affection for the region no longer has to be contained to brush pants and waxed jackets. Kathleen shares, “We have Italian handbags and footwear, a hatmaker in Austria, vendors in Poland, Spain, Canada, Central America – all over the world.”
These additions are a marked evolution of the gear that the store originally sold, more than four decades ago. Kevin Kelly remembers Jon coming into the store when he was just a boy of about six or seven years old. They’ve had a bond ever since. Jon laughs as he recalls those childhood visits to the store with his mother, “I learned pretty quickly that if there was something I wanted, I’d be smart to let Kevin do all the talking. I was astute enough to know that when Kevin’s around, just shut up and let him do the talking. That was my first memory of Kevin: if I can just get him in the area, he’ll talk my mom into buying stuff.”
The nature of that “stuff” that Kevin’s sells in their stores and catalog has come a long way since the days of simply being field shirts and brush pants. Kevin’s upstairs gun room boasts an impressive collection of highly sought-after firearms, including Kevin’s own line of guns that are hand-crafted in Italy, to his specifications. Wildlife art and antique European mounts adorn the walls while a just-for-friends bar and rich leather sofas complete the space. Downstairs, Kathleen’s deft hand can be seen in the rich textiles and fabrics she selects for customers. She says, “We travel the world looking for the best-quality unique things to offer our customers. We go to New York, Atlanta, Chicago, London, Italy – you name it.” The items that make the cut at Kevin’s must be of excellent quality — to stand up to the lifestyle in this region — while still being stylish and ready for any adventure.
“Kevin Kelly understands that the soul of this region is the Bob White quail. That there is an immense community that surrounds all aspects – from the landowners to plantation managers to dog trainers – Kevin’s serves them all.” – Jon Kohler
Beyond the Goods
Beyond developing a brand that resonates with customers embracing the sporting lifestyle, Kevin and Kathleen – like Jon & Erica Kohler – recognize the year-round hard work that goes into keeping this way of life alive here. Both the Kellys and Kohlers are big supporters of Tall Timbers whose sole mission is “to foster exemplary land stewardship through research, conservation and education.” Both families are but two that recognize the invaluable work this non-profit organization does in preserving the heritage of this region. At Kevin’s Annual Game Fair each fall, Tall Timbers has the opportunity to share their mission with guests who come from all over the country. Kathleen shares, “We have customers come from places outside the region – South Carolina, Texas, California – to experience what we do here. And it is no coincidence that Tall Timbers Research is doing important land conservation work in many of these places as well. It is a beautiful relationship and one we are very proud of.” Last year alone, the game fair raised more than $70,000 and, to date the event has raised more than $400,000 to preserve the Bob White quail woods.
Each year, John Kohler & Associates sponsors the annual Quail Bash party the night before the game fair. This is an epic fête that features a robust bar, hors d’oevres with plenty of local game ingredients, and a spectacular auction led by Thomasville’s own, Charlie Whitney (another customer, often featured in the Kevin’s Catalog.) It is fun to look around the room, at all the guests, and seeing many of them outfitted by Kevin’s; everyone present wants to possess a piece of this lifestyle that is synonymous with this region. Jon notes, “Erica and I both look forward to the party – it is an opportunity to connect with like-minded friends, meet new ones, and celebrate the opening of the quail season. I know firsthand the year-round work that goes into making this such a special place. No matter the size of the region, we are a community of folks, devoted to this lifestyle. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“One of the things that separates the Red Hills, of North Florida and SW Georgia, is the passion of the people. Kevin notes, “While we are a family business – not some hobby – we recognize that to be successful, you have to be an innovator and a leader in this space. We are doing that.” He goes on to attribute much of their success to the very fact that they live right here and this a lifestyle they embrace themselves, in all they do: “we see changes in the marketplace because we are living it, day in and day out.”
For more information on Kevin’s visit, www.kevinscatalog.com