East Coast Wings & Grill conducted a soft opening on Friday evening for a select group of customers. (Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
East Coast Wings & Grill opened its doors Friday evening for a select group of VIPs and will officially open to the public Monday for lunch and dinner service.
Bob Feathers and Greg Hunter formed Kingsley Investment Group last year to bring the Winston-Salem, N.C., restaurant chain to the Tri-Cities.
“We’ve worked together in the past, so we were accustomed to that partnership,” said Feathers, president of office furniture and design firm Workspace Interiors. “This is our first venture into the franchise business, but already being comfortable with each other made it easier for us to get things started.”
With 28 domestic locations, mostly in North Carolina, East Coast Wings prides itself on the fresh ingredients it uses, the dozens of inventive sauces and flavors it offers and its family-friendly atmosphere, Feathers said. Those features are part of what drew the partners to the chain.
“It’s got a full-service bar, but it doesn’t overpower the rest of the restaurant,” he said. “There are a lot of televisions, but they aren’t right there in your face like at other locations.”
The company boasts 75 flavors of sauces and spices and nine heat levels for its Buffalo-style wings, allowing diners to create more than 675 combinations. The menu also includes sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads.
After the opening in Johnson City in the Kohl’s-anchored shopping center where CiCi’s Pizza once resided, the duo plans to branch out to the other Tri-Cities, first to Kingsport in the strip mall across East Stone Drive from the Target-centric Pavillion Shopping Center, then to Bristol in the Pinnacle Shopping Center currently under construction just off Interstate 81.
Feathers said he and Hunter are currently analyzing sites for two other locations, possibly along I-81 near Abingdon, Va., or farther to the south, toward Knoxville.
Founded in 1995, East Coast Wings was a single North Carolina restaurant until purchased by an entrepreneurial duo in 2001.
The team added the “Grill” to increase menu offerings and signed dozens of franchise agreements to expand the brand.
The company expects to grow to 80 U.S. locations in the next five years.
Each Tri-Cities location will employ between 55 and 70 people, mostly part-time wait and kitchen staff, Feathers said.
The full lineup of employees at the Johnson City restaurant have been on board for three weeks, undergoing training to prepare for Monday’s opening.
“It’s a great place to work,” Feathers said. “The high value and the support given to the team were exactly what we were looking for when we were doing our research.”
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