Wing man

Local restaurateur expanding with new locations

Wing Barn is spreading its wings, literally.The restaurant that launched on Boca Chica Boulevard two years ago is now officially a chain, with a new location open in North Plaza at U.S. 77/83 Expressway and FM 1732 in Olmito. The grand opening took place Thursday, a couple of weeks after the soft opening. A third Wing Barn location is scheduled for a soft opening a week from Saturday in Sunrise Plaza.In a town with a wing joint on virtually every corner, Wing Barn president and owner Bobby Saenz is confident his wings soar above the rest. March was the Boca Chica store’s best month to date, he said, while the Olmito location has been outpacing even that.“We’re surpassing Boca Chica’s sales at Olmito,” Saenz said. “This one’s just taking off. What we do in two weeks at Boca Chica we probably do in one week at Olmito.”He credits the restaurant’s jumbo-sized wings, which Saenz believes gives Wing Barn an edge over competitors. Also key is the variety of the menu, including certified Angus burgers that hold their own against wing sales, he said.“We have a lot of people who come in for burgers,” Saenz said. “At Boca Chica we do 400 burgers a week.”The Olmito store’s prime location has a lot to do with its promising first two weeks, he added. North Plaza taps into the area’s residential growth and the nearby Sports Park, the Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center and Cameron County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol stations.Sunrise Plaza store is on Pablo Kisel just north of Sunrise Mall, an area heavily trafficked by Mexican who come across the border to shop. Saenz said Sunrise Plaza should be a solid location for the foreseeable future.“I don’t think there’s going to be another mall anytime soon,” he said. “That mall is good for probably another seven to 10 years.”The company has been hyping the openings on its Facebook page for weeks. Saenz said the new locations have the same look and feel of the original Wing Barn — different than anything else in Brownsville or even the Valley.The restaurant showcases local country talent, and Saenz thinks the live music also helps set the restaurant apart. Wing Barn also caters.“As far as wings, people love wings,” he said. “They want fast, economical food. I think we’re a good fit, and these are ideal locations right off the expressway here.”Together the three restaurants will employ between 65 and 70 people, Saenz said.“We want to be as selective as possible and make sure the customer service is there, since that’s a really important aspect,” he said. “We’ve probably interviewed over 100 people for the two locations. We did 30 interviews on Tuesday.”Saenz said three stores is probably it for Brownsville, and that he has no further expansion plans in the next year or two. Beyond that, however, Saenz plans to open Wing Barns all around the Valley and as far north as Laredo.“Within five years I would like to have franchisees,” he said. “In the long run that’s our long-term goal: Looking at franchise opportunities and expanding the Wing Barn name.”