On Saturday inside KO Pies’ kitchen at the Boston Shipyard and Marina in East Boston KO’s owner Sam Jackson is adding cream to mashpatoes, stirring, flipping fried chicken breasts for sandwiches and pouring gravy on an order of Aussie meat pies that have made this little Eastie spot legendary.
In between filling orders Jackson, who is always cool under pressure, is talking about KO’s future while keeping up with the endless stream of orders coming in from the dining room.
“It’s not doomsday,” he said nonchalantly. “It’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow.”
Jackson and I are talking about the collective heart attack loyal KO Pies fans experienced recently when a Boston Magazine article outlined his plans to leave Boston by the end of 2019.
“I just wanted to get it out there so it wasn’t some big surprise,” said Jackson. “We wanted to give everyone fair warning as to our plans so we could enjoy and celebrate this, rather than be hasty about things.”
Jackson, who is 40 and landed in Boston from Australia a decade ago, said he started KO Pies out of thin air. However, being halfway around the world from home coupled with 10 straight Boston winters has had somewhat of an effect on Jackson.
“I’m from a beach town in Australia,” he said. “I grew up surfing, warm weather so I’m in the fortunate position that I’m not married, I don’t have kids so I can pack up and leave if I want to. So I’m throwing it out there to see if anyone is interested in taking over KO in the Shipyard.”
Jackson said he brought something to Boston that was lacking–his unique recipe for Aussie meat pies. Jackson is now of the opinion that if he could start a widely successful business in a tough market like Beantown he could probably do it anywhere.
However, Jackson says the KO brand could live on once he departs, if the right buyer comes along.
“People love KO, but do I need to be the one here to run it?,” he asked. “If the right person or investor comes along they could continue KO Pies for as long as they want..even improve it.”
Jackson admitted there are many scenarios that could play out and the end of 2019 is a long way away. He is even open, if an investor wants, to bounce around the warmer parts of the world during the winter months and come back to KO Pies in the summers, the restaurant’s busiest season, in a different capacity.
“Sure, if they need me as a consultant or to run things in the summer I’d consider that,” he said.
While the KO name may still live on the fiery brains behind the brand will be missed.
Jackson has immersed himself into the community since opening KO’s second location in Eastie eight years ago (the first was in Southie but closed in April). He’s become a partner with local schools, donated time and food to area non-profits and has been an all around good guy when it comes to a favor or request.
“Sam (Jackson) does a lot for the community, perhaps a lot more than people realize,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “I’ll be sad to see him go because he’s been a supporter and friend but at the same time I’m excited for him to start a new adventure in life.”
Well, Jackson is not the type to get all mushy so before he leaves he told the community to come down to KO and eat some pies, drink some beers and have a good time.