I’ve been fortunate to get up-close-and-personal with so many amazing people since I began writing Before the Beach. Such a variety of interesting professionals are now our friends here in Rehoboth, none the least of which the long-time celebrity mixologist, Kymmr Barker.
Kymmr was born in Vineland, New Jersey. Her dad was Bob Barker. Now before you dress up as a radish and start guessing retail prices, he wasn’t that Bob Barker—her dad was the one who was the warden of the Mid-State Maximum Security Penitentiary at Ft. Dix Air Force Base.
To say that Kymmr was overprotected as a child would be an understatement. She found it difficult to get boys to date her because of the subsequent interrogations. Her parents separated when she was 11, and she stayed with her dad and her two brothers. You can imagine the warden’s reaction when Kymmr came out at 22. In fact, he gave her two weeks to vacate the premises. That traumatic moment might have been a blessing in disguise, though, as it set Kymmr on a path to independence and success.
She got a bartending job in Cherry Hill, but it wasn’t long before she was wowing the women at Hepburn’s, the then only women’s bar in Philadelphia. From ’91 to ’95 she built a loyal following of professionals who made it a point to frequent her popular happy hour. Thrown pretty much headfirst into the social whirlwind of the City of Brotherly (Sisterly?) Love, Kymmr was still in the process of defining herself. She adopted the tough-girl look that was in vogue back then, but it just didn’t feel right. She loved women’s fashions, so she opted to just be herself. “The only labels I wear are the ones in my clothes.” In a magazine article that featured her and her loyal following, she went on to say, “I like to dress up and be sexy everywhere I go. It makes me feel good about myself, so why shouldn’t I?”
Kymmr first came to Rehoboth in the summer of ’95, becoming fast friends with the original owners of the Frogg Pond. Her first major bartending gig was at Ground Zero (now Salt Air). From there she worked at Woody’s Bar at the Dinner Bell Inn (now the Bellmoor Inn and Spa) and was the opening barkeep at the original Purple Parrot (next to the Hotel Rehoboth). Kymmr used to book jazz bands there when the only other place with year-round music was the legendary Sydney’s. After working for a while at Irish Eyes in Lewes, Kymmr helped to open the Irish Eyes on Rehoboth Avenue. No stranger to the Lewes food scene, she was the last bartender at Gilligan’s before it sold around 2000.
In 2001, she moved to Vienna, Virginia and a couple of years later traveled to Maui where she married a young woman named Lori Kurcina. Of course, the marriage wasn’t even close to being sanctioned legally, but by now you’ve probably figured out that Kymmr couldn’t have cared less. “It was what I wanted to do to symbolize our love!” She threw a gala reception for her many friends at Nassau Valley Winery in Lewes.
She remained in Virginia for almost 10 years, working at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant in Crystal City. “It was the only gay bar in Northern Virginia,” smiles Kymmr. “It was the Parrot and the Frogg Pond all mixed together.” Because of its proximity to various military installations including the Pentagon, the Navy Yard, and even Quantico, the bar was a haven for many of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military gays and lesbians of the time.
There was another watering hole called the Crystal City Sports Pub that was near Freddie’s (though the clientele were miles apart). A young woman from Oklahoma named Trelynda Kerr ran into Lori there one night and ended up at Freddie’s for karaoke. She struck up a conversation with “that flirty bartender” and after about eight months she and Kymmr became a couple.
In February, 2011, Kymmr left her secure spot at Freddy’s and returned to Rehoboth Beach. She helped to open Bryan and Rita Lookup’s Stoney Lonen in Long Neck, remaining there until it closed. It was then that she joined the crew as one of the opening bartenders at the wildly popular Touch of Italy restaurant and deli on Coastal Highway.
My original intention was to write an article about both Kymmr and Tre, but that turned out to be an exercise in futility. As interesting and eventful as Kymmr’s life has been, Tre’s is equally amazing, with some twists and turns that are sure to raise eyebrows (especially Oklahoma eyebrows).
So I would like to welcome you to my very first Before the Beach two-parter! Be sure to grab your April issue of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth the minute it comes off the presses. There’s even more about Kymmr, plus the story of Trelynda Kerr—and why the last place you might expect her to be living is with a woman in Rehoboth Beach.