Nearly 25 years later, Dianne Crowley vividly remembers the day Wild Wing Cafe opened its doors to Hilton Head Islanders.
Its first day in business got off to a rocky start – the restaurant almost immediately ran out of food and had just six salad bowls on hand for the 285 people who showed up for the lunch rush June 22, 1990, Crowley recounted with a chuckle Thursday.
“We sent two trucks to Sam’s Club in Savannah and bought everything we needed,” she said. “We were just overwhelmed that first night, but the people were so nice.”
The restaurant chain will celebrate its 25th anniversary Sunday at the Wild Wing Cafe on Pope Avenue, a stone’s throw from where the company got its start. Wild Wing Cafe now has 35 locations, including in Columbia, that are spread across seven states.
Crowley and her husband, Cecil, started Wild Wing Cafe soon after moving from Atlanta, where the couple worked as advertising executives. Crowley said their intention was to retire near the beach, but they soon decided to open a restaurant.
A chicken wing restaurant was their only choice, as Dianne’s chicken wing flavors were always a popular item at parties they held in Atlanta.
After they found a space in Coligny Plaza, the first Wild Wing Cafe opened with seven original flavors. On opening night, a dozen wings cost only $3.95, Crowley said.
Success for Wild Wing came quickly. The second location, in downtown Charleston, opened in February 1992. By 1996, the restaurant moved to another Charleston location as the Crowleys began to franchise their restaurant.
Crowley and her husband have taken a back seat to the business side of Wild Wing. The couple sold a majority stake in the chain in 2012, but still own a Wild Wing in Savannah.