KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo community is mourning the loss of the man who created the popular Taco Bob’s restaurants.
Bob Ketteman died Sunday at age 60 from a heart attack while visiting Florida.
Known affectionately as “Taco Bob,” he expanded to multiple locations throughout the Kalamazoo area.
Pinto Hoffman, the general manager of the downtown location, says the restaurants remained open after Bob’s death to honor his legacy.
“I’ve talked to his daughters and his son and they have the same attitude, they are very devastated, but he always taught them to keep on trucking, keep on moving,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman credits Bob’s guidance to helping him rise from dishwasher to general manager.
“This guy turned me into someone who is really hardworking and organized and has a voice now,” Hoffman said.
Customer Rebecca Eisner remembers Ketteman as a man who cared deeply about people and always remembered her order.
“He was always funny and when you come in, he always joked with you and always had something to say. It doesn’t matter how you ordered, or what you ordered, he always made it special for you,” Eisner said.
Shift manager Tyler Sly says Bob helped him through difficult times.
“I had a friend pass away a couple years ago. I came in the next day and I told Bob about it and he told me the best thing you can do sometimes is to work and get your mind off things,” Sly said.
He says the restaurant founder was much more than his employer.
“He was one of the best bosses I ever had but he is more like a friend. We would just talk sports, just a great guy to be around,” Sly said.
Dan Woltersom, owner of South Street Cigars and Spirits, has known Ketteman for decades and owns the building at the Taco Bob’s location on the Kalamazoo Mall.
“He knew his customers by face and by order, made everybody feel like they were welcome,” Woltersom said.
As the community mourns the loss, they also remember his infectious positivity and sense of humor.
“Stop in and buy a taco, that’s what he always wanted,” Woltersom said.
The family is working to make funeral arrangements.
Taco Bob’s Facebook page posted a tribute to its founder.
“For over 30 years, Bob grew his legacy not only through his beautiful family and their restaurants, but by teaching and sharing his signature Taco Bob’s Attitude of success through intentional positivity and joy, he was able to inspire in our community of thousands a better day, a better view, and a better life one smile and one taco at a time,” the post read.
**Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Ketteman’s last name as Kettleman. We regret the error, which has been fixed.