Live TC: Why Jimmy McKenna cares about housing in TC

At Live TC, we firmly believe that anyone who works in Traverse City should be able to afford to live in Traverse City. As a result, we’re chatting with our friends and neighbors to tell their stories, and share with you how our community is impacted by a lack of abundant and affordable housing.

We talked with Jimmy McKenna, General Manager at Blue Tractor Barbeque, about how the lack of available housing has impacted him.

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

School: University of Montana

Family life and hobbies: I met my wife Stacey at the University of Montana in 1994. Stacey and I have 3 children, Ethan (21), Riley (19), and Mae (13). We have been fortunate enough to live in Traverse City and have our kids attend Eastern Elementary, East Middle, and TC Central.

We love all the outdoor activities that our area has to offer. We love to bike, cross country and downhill ski, and of course go to the beach.

Moved to Traverse City in: 1997. After a year, I moved away for a short time and returned with Stacey, and our first child Ethan, in 2001.

Work History: [After moving back to TC,] I got a job at North Peak bartending, did that for 5 years, then helped start Kilkenny’s as the bar supervisor in 2007. In 2009, I helped open Jolly Pumpkin/Mission Table, where I managed for 7 years. In 2016, I became the General Manager of Blue Tractor.

How affordable housing has impacted Blue Tractor: It is very hard for our employees to find affordable housing and, if something does become available, there are 10 people looking at the first day. You definitely have to “know” someone to get your foot in the door.

We’ve had to close one day a week to make it manageable for our staff. One of our kitchen staff members drove an hour and 20 minutes one way to come to work. Once gas prices reached $4 a gallon, [that person] had to quit. It became apparent that we had to close another day, because our staff were already getting tired and it was only March. I’m hoping things change soon so we can get back to normal.

I hope that we can find some sort of solution for restaurant employees to find affordable housing within Traverse City, and not have to live elsewhere. Not only can housing be an issue, but reliable transportation can be hard to find and expensive.

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