Buffalo, NY - Earl Ketry '72 started out studying history at Canisius College. He eventually earned a degree in accounting but in many ways, Ketry has come full circle because he’s now helping to rewrite history in his hometown.
The son of immigrants from Austria and Germany, Ketry grew up in near poverty on Buffalo’s East Side. Athletic and tall, he loved competition and played to win, whether in a scrap with a neighborhood kid or on the basketball court in high school.
Influenced by his hard-working parents, Ketry paid his way through college laboring in the blast furnaces at Bethlehem Steel.
“I know what hell is like – I worked 50 to 60 hours a week at the steel plant and attended classes at night,” Ketry recalls. “If I had a break at work, I used it to study. I was consumed by the wonderfulness of college and determined to succeed, especially since it was my own hard-earned money paying the tuition.”
Looking back, Ketry says he switched majors when he found out what a history professor could expect to earn. Upon graduation, he had 13 job offers and went to work for one of the nation’s Big 4 accounting firms. But history would still be in his future.
Ketry eventually formed his own accounting and consulting business, which he still operates in West Seneca. In the late 1990s, he invested in Pearl Street Grill via a partnership with out-of-town owners. When those owners ran into financial trouble, Ketry and other local investors took control and turned the operation around. It was his first taste of the restaurant business and the start of much more to come.
Under Ketry’s leadership, Pearl Street Grill & Brewery remains a popular Buffalo destination for eating, entertainment and events with four floors and nine bars. The brewery builds on Buffalo’s beer-making tradition with nearly a dozen craft brews on tap. Ketry expanded the business to include a banquet facility, Pearl @ the Webb, and he opened the Lofts on Pearl, a 32-room hotel near the Pearl Street Grill.
Ketry is also part of a joint venture that opened RiverWorks in a former grain elevator complex along the Buffalo River. The business has revitalized that area with a restaurant, craft brewery, indoor roller derby, ice rinks for hockey and curling tournaments and rentals of kayaks, paddleboards and water bikes. Ketry, married with three children, says the city has not seen anything yet, as he has more ideas in mind.
“I look at things differently to see what others do not,” Ketry concludes. “The seeds were planted at Canisius where I learned how to approach any challenge. That’s why I’m always swinging for the fences.”