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Keiler family's properties going to auction today

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The Keiler family has had a significant impact on the development of Paducah and McCracken County.

Over the past 100 years, the Keilers have led business endeavors ranging from liquor sales to theater management to subdivision development.

But today, the last of the Keilers' major properties will go to auction.

Steve Keiler, 57-year-old son of the late Jack Keiler and grandson of the late Leo Keiler, worked to convince the heirs and associates of Jack Keiler in California, Colorado, Washington and Arizona to sell the remainder of most of the Keiler properties in the Paducah area.

Steve Keiler is one of the last remaining relatives in Paducah. Due to nerve damage he sustained as a result of being rear-ended in two separate car accidents, he reluctantly made the decision to give up property development.

Selling the properties, however, doesn't mean he won't continue to value his family's heritage in Paducah.

Keiler can remember his grandmother describing to him how she planted the pine trees along the family's home during the Great Depression. The Keiler's Pines Farm was built in 1902. His grandfather worked in the liquor business before prohibition but was most notably known for the family's theater business. Between St. Louis and western Kentucky, Keiler said the family once had 32 theaters.

That was at a time when Paducah had 18 drive-in theaters, Keiler said.

Jack Keiler built and owned a Paducah drive-in theater that Steve said was once rated the No. 1 theater in the country. But Jack Keiler wasn't just in the theater business. He also invested in property around the area, such as tracts on the western side of town where the mall is located today as well as downtown. He put together what was then the downtown shopping center where Four Rivers Behavioral Health is located today.

The heirs and associates of Jack Keiler live all around the country. Steve Keiler's older siblings moved away from Paducah after college, while he chose to return after college and carry on the family business. Today, he and his 84-year-old mother are the remaining property-holders in Paducah.

"I talked to the family and explained I wasn't up to it and wasn't able to continue doing it," Keiler said.

Keiler chose long-time friend Robert Alexander to do the five separate absolute estate auctions, which will start at 5:07 p.m. today at Whaler's Catch Restaurant. Properties to be auctioned include 29 lots in The Pines subdivision, two tracts off of Wayne Sullivan Drive near the I-24 Business Loop, 16 acres in the RiverPort Authority area, eight tracts in Magnolia Village subdivision and about 26 acres off I-24 from James Sanders Boulevard to the mall area.

Raised to work

Keiler has been working in property development since the early 1980s, although he can remember he hosted his first open house in the fourth grade.

Not only did he gain business expertise from his father and grandfather, but he also got once-in-a-lifetime experiences from the family's theater ownership, which included the Columbia and Arcade Theaters in Paducah. Keiler can remember hosting cast parties in his father's home.

"It was really, really unique and a lot of fun," Keiler said. "To say, well, I danced with Goldie Hawn and met Richard Pryor on a few occasions."

Aside from the fun, Keiler said he looks back on his family's heritage and is thankful for the example his ascendants set.

"I've had a really good education from being privy to a lot of things," he said. "(My father) was a very hard-driving man and civic leader, and there are not many like him still around today."

Keiler said he hopes the auction leads to further development for Paducah. Forty-one tracts are set to be sold today, which Keiler noted "might be an opportunity for somebody to get a bargain."

"There has been an awful lot of activity and people showing interest," he said.

Keiler and his wife are working to build a new home in Paducah, but he said that's about the extent of his own property development plans. In the meantime, he said he hopes to see good things happen in Paducah.

"I've seen it change in a lot of good ways and some not-so-good ways," he said.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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