From early on, John was initiated into the family’s business, assisting his father and grandmother in catching, processing, and selling seafood. As a schoolboy, John assisted his father with unloading the boats before school hours and processing and cleaning that day’s catch after school hours. The family would sell their catch from the front porch of their home on Clark Street, Pass Christian. Locals would walk up to their porch-side counter which was known for providing some of the freshest seafood in the city. As a young man, John began making deliveries to New Orleans with his father’s seafood truck. Many of these trips would find John making the daily drive between the Gulf Coast and the French Market in New Orleans, he often told the stories of how he would keep a lit cigarette between his fingers and allow it to burn down, helping him stay awake as he drove.
By 1948, Kimball’s Seafood had grown in size and a retail location was acquired on West 2nd Street in the downtown Pass Christian area. This prosperity continued into the 1950’s when Kimball’s Seafood became the first seafood business to operate an unloading dock in the Pass Christian Harbor, and in 1956, John Sr. and John Jr. installed their own plant to manufacture ice adjacent to the seafood market. As a test of the growth of the business, John Sr. began conducting business transactions using $2.00 bills, and within a short period of time, Pass Christian was inundated with this denomination, a sign of their influence upon the local economy.
In 1960, John Jr. graduated St. Stanislaus and enlisted in the United States Army. While enlisted, his father suffered a stroke and John Jr. requested to return home so as to take over the family business. This request was granted and Kimball returned to Pass Christian to operate off the Pass Harbor each morning as his father and grandmother had done before him. In the years that followed, Kimball would become known for his persistence in the face of adversity. When Hurricane Camille hit in 1969, the market on West 2nd Street was still intact and was utilized as a makeshift headquarters for the Pass Christian Police Department. Kimball, like his father, was known for carrying large sums of cash, and was attacked in 1988. Kimball managed to fight off his attacker but sustained injuries.
John E. Kimball Jr. passed away on September 1, 2003, leaving his business to his daughter Darlene Kimball who currently operates Kimball’s Seafood. For over 75 years, Kimball’s Seafood has been a stable of the Gulf Coast seafood industry, passed down from grandmother, to father, and then from father to daughter.
John E. “Johnny Boy” Kimball Jr. was the son of John E. Kimball Sr. and Willie May Hugely Kimball, and the heir of the Kimball’s Seafood business. His grandmother, Minna Louise Kimball and his father started the business in the early 1930’s in Pass Christian, Mississippi. The influence of Minna Kimball’s business sense was evident up to the birth of John Jr. as she stood as the matriarch of the family. John Kimball Sr. operated upwards of seven fishing boats between the 1930s and 1960s. The company specialized in catching and processing shrimp, fish, and oysters.