Employees first, guests second. Seth and Kateland (Kate) Gillies operate their restaurant businesses with the belief that the happier an employee is, the better service a guest is going to receive.

While Ralph & Ava’s Kitchen & Bar in Mooresville and Bar Ziek in Martinsville differ greatly in what they have to offer the public, both ensure that employees have the resources and support to be successful at work and at home, from offering necessary tools to make the job easier to ensuring that employees make it home to their families for holidays.

“We treat everyone as family,” Seth said. “I’m probably prouder of seeing employees grow and better themselves and knowing we have a part in that. What makes me most proud is when I see someone going from being that new server to seeing them months later on a Friday night, being the rockstar in the place.”

Next to that, Seth said he loves seeing people eating and drinking in their restaurants with a smile. For him, this has been a dream since he was 8 years old.

“The reality looks a little different from the dream, but essentially this is where I was headed forever and a day,” he said “I used to think I’d be a big, fancy chef in New York City someday. I don’t think I would want that now. I really like the small town, community aspect of it. I love being able to employ 40 people or more and know we’re giving them a great opportunity and a livable wage.”



Seth grew up in the restaurant industry in southwest Michigan. His father was a chef and his mother ran a bar and restaurant. He started his career working in restaurants – as a cook, server, bartender, and manager. While working with Main Street Pub in Kalamazoo, Mich., he and Kate met. Together, they moved to South Bend, Ind. to take over a restaurant there for three years before going back to Michigan. By the time they were expecting their second child, Seth was putting in 80 hours a week at work. They Seth and Kateland Gillies open second restaurant in Morgan County
decided to move closer to Kate’s Monrovia hometown to have additional family support. Seth obtained a job as a food sales rep for Cisco Foods, where Ralph & Ava’s Kitchen & Bar in Mooresville was one of his accounts. As his friendship grew with the owners, Paul Ford, Toni McNalley, and Brian Wiser, Kate began to work bartending at the restaurant as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic happened which forced restaurants to close and Ralph & Ava’s to repurpose the dining area into a grocery store with takeout service. A year later, a tornado struck the Ralph & Ava’s building in April 2021, leading to its closure.

“I was hanging out with the owners on their back porch, having a beer in the summertime when they hit me with the news that they weren’t going to reopen,” Seth said. “I said, ‘let’s table this conversation.’ After a lot of praying, we then made an offer and became the owners of Ralph & Ava’s.”



That was June of 2021. It took them until October to complete the remodel, celebrating the reopening on Nov. 1, 2021. Seth and Kate kept popular menu staples such as the fish and chips and the crab rangoon dip but otherwise switched up the menu. They tore down walls, the bathroom, and the bar before constructing a new, larger bar, two bathrooms where the old bar used to be, painted, updated the kitchen setup and more.

“They had such a loyal following, that’s why we didn’t change the name,” Seth said. “We wanted to keep that presence and build on that. We’re very fortunate to be able to do what we do in that small space and continue to grow it year by year. That’s a testament to our team.

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