How did Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman decide to open a franchise chicken-wing place? And how are the wings?
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman really likes wings.
“Out of 10, I’d probably say I’m at eight and a half in my love for chicken,” he says. His brother, he admits, loves wings more than he does, but he says he’s “a close second.” Another Sherman wing stat: 20 is the most he’s eaten in one sitting. “That’s about it for me,” he says. “I was stuffed … I definitely need a nap after 20 wings.”
Sherman opened a franchise chicken-wing place called Wingstop in West Seattle in August. On the field, he’s known for hotheaded outbursts, like the one after an apparent communication breakdown that resulted in a Falcons touchdown this past Sunday. Off the field, he’s got a fiancée and two kids; he’s highly aware that football careers are short ones; and hot wings are a business decision he’s made deliberately and thoughtfully, with an eye to the future.
Richard Sherman’s Wingstop
Westwood Village, 2600 S.W. Barton St., Suite B8, Seattle; 206-257-5021; wingstop.com
Besides its very famous owner, there’s nothing extraordinary about Richard Sherman’s Wingstop. It’s a little bit hard to find — Sherman says he was anxious about the location at first, tucked away in the middle of West Seattle’s Westwood Village shopping center next to a Sleep Train, not facing the street. But, he says, “Chicken has been going for a long time, so I figured … if you build it, they will come.”
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Richard Sherman’s Wingstop was almost Richard Sherman’s Jamba Juice. Some of his teammates had already invested in Wingstop and “told me great things,” he says. Still, as a Stanford grad and self-described former geek, he did a lot of research, comparison shopping. (He’s said that he’s very conservative with his money, that he eschews the stock market as it’s too risky.) He found, he says, that the chain offered more freedom for franchisees.
Sherman grew up in Compton; he’s known for his charitable work, and flexibility in the matter of hiring was a high priority. At an American Express event for local business owners last week, he said he wants to “give people opportunities … there are great people in the world, people who’ve just fallen on hard times, and you want them to be a part of it.”
He talks about people providing for their families from a very personal perspective. “You want to buy your mom a nice house. The situation I was in when I was young — all you can do is hope to get your parents and your family out of that before something crazy happens.”
Sherman’s got two more Wingstops in the works, one in North Seattle and one that might be near CenturyLink Field. This entrepreneurial aspect of his life has been an ambition of the star NFL player all along.
“I’ve always wanted to be a business owner,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to see if I could do it.”
Wingstop isn’t his first such endeavor, either. When he was growing up, his father drove a garbage truck. Now his dad runs a trucking company Sherman started.
So how are Richard Sherman’s wings?
There’s classic or boneless (get classic; boneless is basically tenders, though they offer those, too), an array of wing packages (including 100 for $90.99), and Wingstop is known for its different flavor options. With so many possible menu permutations, ordering was a humbling experience for a novice. The patient, efficient counterperson promised, with surprising specificity, that the wings would be up in eight minutes.
The décor features old-timey aeronautical photos and prints — wings, get it? — with corrugated metal functioning as tidy-looking wainscoting. A large Seahawks floor mat is the only tribute to the owner. (The paper bags read “Dip it/Dunk it/Destroy it,” which seemed off-brand; it’s not Shawn Kemp’s Wingstop.)
After almost exactly eight minutes elapsed, the order was up. Instead of napkins, you unspool paper towels from a roll mounted at the counter. You need more than you think.
At the risk of provoking Sherman’s ire, I must strongly take issue with his favorite flavors: garlic parmesan (“You’ll need some gum after,” he says) and teriyaki. The former are served covered in drifts of parmesan powder, while the latter get a brown, sticky glaze. Both lacked any semblance of nuance; both carried strong artificial/chemical overtones; and both were intensely, overridingly salty.
The traditional flavors — Mild, Original Hot and Atomic — were a tremendous improvement. Under the sauce, the skin was golden with a nice crispness to it, on both the wings and the mini-drumsticks. The meat was tender. Mild flavor had a bright, tart, vinegar note, while Original Hot added something for the mouth to think about. A sinister-looking red-orange color, Atomic had visible bits of chili pepper clinging to the bird; the sauce achieved smothering coverage, pooling underneath with an oily sheen. The burn here started slow, then turned powerful and tenacious, clinging to the lips, making the eyes water, clearing the mind. These were some damn hot wings.
It’s not a gourmet experience, but, as Sherman notes, “People love it.” At 3:40 on a Saturday afternoon, a big line of people formed, getting wings and a beer for themselves or takeout for their families.
“I didn’t think it would do this well, honestly,” Sherman says. He built it and they came.
Actually, he admits, “My fiancée kind of makes everything happen … She doesn’t get enough credit. Honestly, that’s how I get it done, because she takes a ton off my plate.” Her name’s Ashley Moss. They’re planning to get married next summer. Their Wingstop is hiring.