Young family members gain valuable experience at Port Washington restaurant
When Adam Brown and his son Josh opened the wing restaurant Wing It at 620 W. Grand Ave., Port Washington, in May of 2015, it was intended to be a learning experience for the younger Brown — who was just a year out of high school — in lieu of going to college.
From that perspective, the business has already been a stellar success.
“What I learned about business is that it requires you to be quick on your feet. You have to be able to deal with the here and now. That is a lesson you can’t really learn in business school … you have to experience it,” Josh said.
“There have been a lot of high points and a few low points during the first year. Of course, there are always things you don’t necessarily like about running a business, like having to be here until 11:30 p.m. on Friday night when my friends are going out.”
That kind of aggravation, Josh said, has to be looked at as a long-term investment in the future success of the business.
Asked if he regrets taking on so much responsibility at such a young age, he replied, “Not for a second. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
His father agreed that life lessons can only be learned by living.
“Josh has had to make more critical decisions than a lot of 20-year-olds ever face,” Adam said.
“I would say he has gone from 19 to 30 overnight.”
That same rush to adulthood is in play with Josh’s sister Hayley, who graduated as an honor student this spring from Port Washington High School. She is now the general manager at the restaurant.
Hayley, however, is heading to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in fall to study international business.
“After I graduate, maybe I’ll open a Wing It in Puerto Rico,” she quipped.
With 15 employees, Hayley said, many of the innovations the restaurant has undertaken are a result “of the great brains” on the staff.
Some of those brainstorms include the addition of a rustic patio on the east side of the building and offering outdoor movies on Fridays and Saturday nights.
On a more technical level, the option of placing orders online is now available.
But the biggest — or at least the most visible — enhancement has been a food trailer, wrapped in signage created at Adam Brown’s other business, Sign Effectz in Milwaukee.
“It was originally intended to be a marketing tool to get our name out there,” Adam said.
From there, the trailer was used to bring wings to such events as the Live at the Triangle series in Saukville and the Summer Sounds concerts in Cedarburg.
The restaurant will continue its southward marketing migration by taking the food trailer to home games this fall at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.
In a couple years, Adam said, thought may be given to opening a second location, possibly in the Cedarburg area.
“We’ve got a few things we need to iron out here before we start thinking about that,” Josh said.
About 75% of the restaurant’s business is carry-out orders, often from commuters heading home from work.
It is that customer base that has sustained the business.
“The business plan was never about serving tourists. We are working-class people, and our goal all along has been to serve those same workers,” Adam said.
Image Information: THE OWNERS OF WING IT in Port Washington are extending their market presence and visibility through the use of a colorfully decorated food trailer. The wings restaurant is co-owned by Josh Brown (far left) and his father, Aaron (right). Josh’s sister, Hayley, is the general manager until she heads off to college in fall. Photo by Mark Jaeger