A pair of Yellowknife entrepreneurs saw a business opportunity and opted to wing it.
In April, they launched Wing Freak, filling a culinary niche of chicken wings.
“We’re wing freaks, we do our wings in an authentic way that only we know, and it’s a catchy name,” said Laurence Barbosa, who operates the business with his friend Erick Paz. “We found out that most people here in Yellowknife love chicken. (And) we love eating chicken wings and any kind of chicken.”
About two years ago, they knew they wanted to open a business but weren’t sure at the time what it would be. The COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“We wanted to open it in the Philippines but then COVID-19 happened. So then we decided to try it in Yellowknife. The feedback we’ve received since then was overwhelming,” Paz said.
The friends initially launched Wing Freak for one week in August 2020, then stopped to acquire the necessary permits.
Their first official day as a registered business was April 9, 2021.
The response from customers that Friday night a couple of months ago was tremendous: Barbosa and Paz sold 900 wings.
Demand has remained high ever since. They average sales of 1,500 wings for their Friday to Sunday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. business period.
“It’s been great. We’ve been getting a lot of love and support from the community. We didn’t expect that at all. We’re doing our best to give the best service we can,” said Paz.
Working in Barbosa’s home kitchen, the wing freaks deep-fry their wings and then coat them in sauces.
Their flavours include salt and pepper, honey-sriracha, garlic-parmesan, hot and spicy and lemon pepper. They also make an adobo sauce, based on the Filipino dish of chicken marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns; and a Jack Daniel’s wing recipe.
“The Jack Daniel’s is sweet and has a kick, like the drink. We put a little whiskey in it, just so they can taste it,” said Barbosa.
The parmesan and honey-sriracha have been the most popular sauces.
“We’ve been getting good feedback from the adobo ones too, even though those are mostly familiar to Filipinos,” Barbosa said.
They also offer rice and coleslaw as side dishes.
Though things are going well for Paz and Barbosa, they’ve had a few bumps in the road just over two months into their venture.
When they started out, it was a challenge to find a wing supplier that could meet their order demands, and they ran out a few times. But since they started buying from Northbest Distributors, their supplies have been more reliable.
A few negative online reviews of their wings also caused a couple of headaches.
“We have regular full-time jobs so time management is an issue as well,” Paz said. “It’s been tough sometimes but we’ve been working hard to make adjustments. The communication that we have as owners is pretty good because we’re friends. Now we’re business partners.”
For now, Wing Freak is delivery only. If things go really well for them, the duo might open a physical restaurant in a few years.
“Our goal is to have a physical dine-in restaurant but we don’t have a time yet because it’ll be a big investment. We’ll take it one day at a time,” Barbosa said. “We just want to give the best service we can. The support that we’re getting from our friends and families, and the camaraderie and the unity we’re building in Yellowknife is great. I think the personal growth we’ve experienced is great too. This is a new thing for us. We figured out so much in just two months.”