Hot Wings, Cold Beer & Good Times - WILD WING CAFE Celebrates 20 Years Of Success
Author: Blanche T. Sullivan | Photographer: Mark Staff
She was a marketing guru who loved to cook. He was a business owner and promotions expert who considered great golf, cold beer and tasty chicken wings among life’s utmost pleasures. And while Dianne and Cecil Crowley were enamored with each other, and co-owned a successful advertising agency, the Atlanta couple yearned for more paradisal pastures.
Never a pair to unresponsively rest on their laurels, Cecil sold his Executive Courier business and the entrepreneurial duo set their sights on the notorious vacation destination of Hilton Head Island. However, instead of visions of retirement and beach lounging dancing in their creative heads, the Crowleys contemplated opening a restaurant—not just any old dining establishment, but one with an inviting atmosphere that would offer ice cold brews, tons of fun and tasty, yet seemingly elusive, chicken wings.
They made up for their lack of restaurant ownership experience with their vast knowledge of marketing and promoting, high standards, fun personalities and huge hearts. It also didn’t hurt that Dianne knew her way around a kitchen and had become a Super Bowl party diva, of sorts, who credits her mother with some of the Wing’s first recipes.
The Crowleys opened Hilton Head Island’s first Wild Wing Café in Coligny Plaza, overlooking a quaint duck pond, two decades ago. They’ll say it was a miracle that they survived their first six months, but their sizable, devoted fan base and 20 years of success speak loudly otherwise.
Local Fred Warren is a member of the Chilly Willy Band that played opening night and continues to play at the Wing today. He recalls that first day well.
“From day one, Cecil and Dianne were always civic-minded, always involved with the Town of Hilton Head and charity functions. The original Wild Wing concept is an extension of Cecil and Dianne. They were the personality of the restaurant and helped shape what it has become today,” he said.
In addition to helping provide musical entertainment, Warren also happily served as one of Dianne’s “wingmen” (i.e. taste testers) for about six months.
Warren added, “Chicken wings were not an everyday occurrence, outside of Buffalo [NY], and there was a limited opportunity to enjoy that kind of food on the island. The original Wild Wing on the duck pond had a lot of charm and quickly became a destination for both wing lovers and music lovers.”
Musician Edwin McCain, currently touring with a new album, was actually signed by Atlantic Records right off the Wild Wing’s deck and will return June 20 for a special “Wingstock” performance.
Hilton Head Island Mayor Tom Peeples and wife Mary Ann have been loyal Wild Wing patrons since the beginning, since his construction company (Tom Peeples Builder) built the Wing’s original home on the little duck pond.
“I built the original Wild Wing Cafe for Cecil and Dianne in Coligny, and Mary Ann and I have been customers ever since,” said Peeples. “I like the atmosphere, I like the food, I like the consistency—you can always count on a quality experience. I also like Dianne and Cecil. They are good people who have always given back and that’s important, especially in a community, such as Hilton Head.”
Dianne and Cecil don’t think of themselves as restaurateurs or any big deal. They love their staff and customers and are glowingly proud of the fact that many employees have been with them for years—some since the very beginning—and that many folks fell in love or met their spouses at the Wing.
“We don’t consider this [WWC] a restaurant. It’s a culture,” said Diane. “We dedicate ourselves to putting out good products, and we want people to feel at home, to have a good time. FUN! We also think it’s important to give back to the community.”
“Dianne and I are extremely grateful to the people of Hilton Head,” added Cecil. “We’re very blessed, and we know that, regardless of where you go and what you become, you only have one place where you began—that’s home.”
Twenty years have passed since Wild Wing Cafe’s humble beginnings. The restaurant’s customer base has increased a thousand-fold; its number of locations has expanded from one to 19; its offering of wing flavors has gone from 7 to more than 30; and its menu offers everything from burgers and BBQ to ribs and wraps. They’re open seven days a week, do extensive catering and have become one of the hottest music venues around. What hasn’t changed is the Crowleys’ passion for providing a quality dining experience, creating an enjoyable work atmosphere and giving back to the community.
For additional information regarding the Wild Wing Café, please call (843) 785-WING or visit wildwingcafe.com. You can also follow WWC on Facebook: “Wild Wing Cafe Hilton Head Island S.C.”
**WILD WING CAFE 20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
While the Wild Wing Café’s actual birthday is June 22, you can enjoy a whole spread of exciting activities leading up to the Wing’s finale bash!
• Blast from the Past Bartenders: Come see your favorite bartenders from over the years!
• Dig in the Sand for 10 Grand: Someone will dig in the sand each night for a chance at $10,000!
• Live Music: Jam Session with Permanent Tourist
• Live Music: Diesel Brothers
• Tacos & Ritas – $2 Tacos & Outrageous Margarita Specials
• Thirsty Thursday with Tokyo Joe & $1 Vodkas
• Old School Friday Night
• Live Music with an Old School Surprise Band
Birthday Beach Party at the Wild Wing Café
• Birthday Beach Bash for the Whole Family!
• Live Music with The Coconut Groove Band (4-7 p.m.)
• Wing Eating Contest
• Show off your Wild Child!
• Live Music: Silicone Sister rocks the Wing in the evening
• Party begins at 1 p.m.
• Featuring Edwin McCain, in support of his new album
• Plus… Live music all day with: Tokyo Joe, Plane Jane
• Wild Wing Rock Idol Winner will sing with Tokyo Joe
• Drink Specials Inside & Out
• $5,000 Cornhole Tourney Finale, with a chance to play locally.
Wild Wing Cafe’s Actual 20th Birthday!
• Flashback Menu from 4-7 p.m. Wild Wing is pulling out some of its original menus, from 1990, with original pricing. Don’t miss these crazy “flashback” birthday prices!
• Live Music: Diesel Brothers
Follow Wild Wing Café on Facebook or visit wildwingcafe.com for more details regarding anniversary activities and other WWC events.