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People of NKY: Just call him Puck; Jesse Kleinhenz, bar manager at Gypsy’s, loves hockey, helping kids

By Ginger Dawson
NKyTribune reporter

Who among us has not heard of Puck?  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play by William Shakespeare, he is a sprite (or goblin) hovering on the periphery of events. Through his actions, for better or for worse, he steers the course of events for all in his world.

Jesse Kleinhenz in front of the first year awards of CSHL. Yes, those are paper plates! Note the hoodie sporting the Gypsy’s logo.

Puck is a charmer and a trickster. His mischievous, appealing countenance draws people in.  He performs good deeds and practical jokes in reasonably equal measure.

If Covington could be a magical forest (and I know many people who think it is), Jesse Kleinhenz is Puck—Puck with a mullet.  

If you have ever been in Gypsy’s (“a cool, clean, dive bar, located in the heart of Mainstrasse Village” — per Facebook description), you have most likely seen some of the results of Jesse’s magic.  

And, if you’ve ever heard of Covington Street Hockey, you most definitely have.

Jesse has been the bar manager at Gypsy’s for about five years.  It is a job that he loves, and he went about getting it the old-fashioned way.  He made himself indispensable by being dependable, doing a good job, volunteering for shifts and positioning himself for opportunity.

This game plan that Jesse adopted sprang from a very good piece of advice that he got from his dad about getting ahead in life — “Dead fish can’t float upstream.” Being the fifth of eight kids, this was a piece of advice that had real meaning, I imagine.

Jesse started on this path when got his first job in the bar business at O’Malley’s, Cincinnati’s second oldest bar.

CSHL sign on display inside Gypsy’s.

His boss, around that time, was expanding an adjoining section of O’Malley’s into another bar concept and it was taking a little bit longer to get off of the ground than he preferred.

Not wanting to lose any momentum with his business plans, another opportunity came on the horizon and he jumped on it. The building at 641 Main St. in Covington had already been a bar for a few years. Getting it up and running under a new name was a much simpler process than what he was dealing with in Cincinnati.

Of course, we Covingtonians know everything is better on our side of the river. Jesse, who had moved to the Mainstrasse about a year and a half before found this out for himself. He made it known that he wanted the job as manager of the new bar and it was a fait accompli.  

When it comes to Gypsy’s, Jesse is all in. His ideas about the image and culture of the bar are comprehensive and well-conceived. He focuses on the branding of Gypsy’s through media and merchandising; sometimes utilizing funny videos and photos on Facebook. His marketing plan would do any advertising executive proud. 

It is his goal to be the best bar in Covington for not just customers, but also as a place to work.

At the Center for Great Neighborhoods “Heart of the Community” awards, 2018. Hockey for Covington LLC won recognition for their community service: Justin Patterson, Jesse, and Jason Kleinhenz.

In addition to providing a friendly and inviting spot that embodies the quirkiness and charm of Covington, he also understands how important it is to be a good manager.

There are seven bartenders on staff at Gypsy’s, and in a tribute to Jesse’s managerial style, three have been with him since he took over. As a symptom of this low turnover, bartending positions are rare and coveted. Bartenders want to work at Gypsy’s.

Now, one thing to know about Gypsy’s is that it is also a sports bar, but more specifically, it is a HOCKEY bar. All kinds of hockey: on ice, on pavement, with ice skates, roller blades or quad skates (known as roller skates to old farts). TVs are on and hockey is being watched.

Jesse is a huge hockey fan, and by his account, Gypsy’s became a magnet for lost hockey souls.

About two years ago, he and his friend, Dave Wellerding, were sitting at the bar talking about street hockey. They had fond memories of it from when they were kids in the late 1990’s, and, of course, were big fans

Gypsy’s, 641 Main St.

They hatched the idea of starting a street hockey league. In January of 2018, the Covington Street Hockey League (CSHL) was officially founded.  Its center of operations is Gypsy’s and the current home court is Kenney Shields Park located in the Mainstrasse. 

Jesse became the commissioner of Hockey for Covington LLC, the organization that administrates CSHL. 

Within a matter of months, twenty-five people signed up. Currently, there are about one hundred waivers signed — yes waivers. As you can imagine, street hockey is a rugged sport and not for clumsy wallflowers. Helmets, and all manner of protective gear are important.

CSHL is a real league currently fielding four teams of twelve to sixteen members each. They are looking to build to six within this next year.

The matches flow like this: There are ten players on the court at once (five from each team). Players get on the court and go like hell for two or three minutes until they are exhausted, and then are relieved by fresh meat.  

Jesse in action.

The pace is fast and wild and a whole lot of fun to watch or be a part of—depending on your nerve.

Community outreach is another facet of CSHL. Jesse felt that this was important and is proud of this aspect of the league and the impact it has on the local community. There are long term plans to offer free kid’s programs, and to build a better court.

The Kenney Shields park has some sewer overrun problems and, of course, trash is something that keeps the league busy staying on top of. In order to accomplish their goals, it was decided that a better setup was in order.

Fundraising of different types has begun to remedy this, and the search for a better permanent home is underway.

Jesse at a school event.

In addition to fundraising for themselves, CSHL also fundraises for other organizations, as well.

One of these is a toy drive for area kids with donations to Be Concerned, a Northern Kentucky organization dedicated to assisting low-income individuals. It is in its second year.  

This year’s drive ends tomorrow, Dec. 19 at Gypsy’s with an Ugly Sweater Party. Check out the event here. 

Through his successes as the bar manager of Gypsy’s and his position as commissioner of Hockey for Covington, Jesse has influenced the actions of many people and steered them in directions that benefit all of us.

In the magical forest that is Covington, Jesse Kleinhenz is definitely Puck. With a mullet.

Ginger Dawson writes about people — the neighbors you need to know and people you need to meet and understand. If you have ideas for subjects please share them with Ginger at ginger@fuse.net.

The ad for last year’s toy drive. This year’s ends tomorrow!

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