It is with no formal training… just good work ethics, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a talent for working with food, that this brand was formed. My creative side and my hands-on approach have always provided me the best results. I think that is just part of being self-taught. You have to always be involved, in order to be good at what you do. It’s that “practice makes perfect” concept.
The late 1980’s is when I started blending spices and herbs. It wasn’t for fun or for a lack of better things to do. I did it to create a convenient product that I could grab and use on food in my restaurant. It was always a consistent blend and the food tasted the same every time. Nowadays, doing that would be considered “building an efficiency” or something complicated like that. Back then it was just my own quality control process. It made training other cooks easier. I didn’t have time to get out 12 – 18 different herbs and spices to make one flavor profile and I didn’t feel like writing a book about how to use it. My goal was to just do it right the first time!
Throughout my career I have been given the opportunity to work with people from all over the United States and Canada. I have listened and learned from professionals, hobbyists, and home cooks. These people all had one thing in common. They all liked to make great food. From Louisiana to Alaska, Texas to Maine, east coast to west coast, you name it. I have see all kinds of creative ways. What I did was this…I just took what I wanted and left the rest. It’s my way of not being competitive and controversial. I wasn’t doing this to win something. I was doing it to accomplish something for myself. I set out to make my own way through this world without doing it at anyone else’s expense. Doing things honestly that I could enjoy.
So, to fast forward a little bit, it goes like this. I developed the first product of the line back in the 1990’s and the first retail ready product came along in 2014. The rest of the products were up there in my head, like a song, is the best way to describe it. I developed the first seven blends and their names, labels, etc. by the end of 2014. The “Wilderness Edition” came along after watching sales plummet in the winter months. The wilderness line was a way to extend the season into winter and to appeal to the outdoor enthusiast. Other products in the line were developed for reasons such as a simple request, a geographical target and to honor a person who passed and was deserving of a legacy.
The Wing-A-Lings Dry Rubs & Seasonings brand was originally called Rub-A-Dub Rub Mfg. This changed after two very convincing things happened. First was when our concession trailer that I developed and we operated, long before food trucks even hit the east coast, was vending at the Talladega Nascar race. My wife and I were selling our brined and smoked chicken wings, and we had two lines of people. One for food and one for a “photo op” with our logo, the rooster. I said to my wife, “I wish I had five dollars for every time somebody walks by and says Wing-A-Lings!”. The second thing was like nothing you would ever imagine. We went into the biggest retail store that we had product in and basically could not find our brand anywhere. There were so many products with faces, names, mascots and celebrity endorsements, that it was overwhelming. This was when I knew that if this was going to last, we better rebrand the product. Have you ever realized how hard it is to change your own mind? I did that day!
Drink enhancers were the next craze, along with building the colossal Bloody Mary! This is not what prompted me to develop my Bloody Mary Mourning Rim Rub drink enhancer. We were on a sales trip through the Finger Lakes region. We stopped at 24 wineries to sell, and inquire about getting our dry rub products in their stores, and, that’s right folk, 24 places said NO! On this trip, I did see the drink enhancers and rimmers were on their way into the marketplace. I had tried a variety of products and I wasn’t liking any of them, so I created my own. No additives, no chemical enhancement tricks, just blended all-natural ingredients. I think this product development was my way of not being defeated. This is why I don’t recommend sitting around, feeling sorry for yourself, or taking no for an answer. I was always told, “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it”.
In the beginning of the 2016 BBQ season, our concession trailer was destroyed in a traffic accident. A lady ran a stop sign and I was forced to change my entire business focus. Nothing is ever easy, more work, more money, more time. So, we looked in to restructuring. We made the decision to focus on the dry rub seasonings and use the food as an avenue to increase sales in the retail stores. I decided it would be a lot easier to give the food away and sell the dry rub blends. You can taste the finished product and then go home and try your own hand at it. With this process, I hardly ever get told no. Who can say no to a free, brined and smoked chicken wing?
There are so many contributing factors that I could write a book about this. The list is long and all items are of equal importance, all in their own way. Backyard barbeques, KCBS competition BBQ, cooking at home, cooking for friends and family, owning restaurants, being a journeyman carpenter, growing up on a farm. Being in the right place at the right time… I guess, I call them experiences, exposure.
I am going to end this with a term my wife used to describe what I have been through in building this business and in my life in general. The word is evolved. When things were bad, we made them better, we grew the business when business was down, and we adapted to the changes we could not control. This is how the brand was built and that is why I’m so proud of it!
* I MUST GIVE CREDIT, TO MY LOYAL AND TENANCIOUS WIFE. SHE HAS BEEN BY MY SIDE WITH THIS VENTURE, SINCE BEFORE DAY ONE. SHE HAS HELPED, CONTINUED TO PUSH THIS BRAND, THROUGH WRONG DECISIONS AND DENIALS FROM STORES. SHE HAS NEVER WAIVERED IN HER FAITH OF THIS PRODUCT LINE, OR HER FAITH IN ME. HER CONSTANT DEDICATION, IS WHAT GETS THIS BUSINESS TO THE NEXT STEPPING STONE, FOR ME TO POLISH. SHE DEFINITELY DOES NOT RECEIVE THE RECOGNITION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT FROM MOST, THAT SHE DESERVES, IN THIS COMPANY. SHE MAY NOT BE THE COOK, THE CREATOR, OR THE CONCEPTUAL DESIGNER, BUT SHE IS THE DRIVING FORCE, THAT GETS US THERE.