FORK & CORK: Wet Willie's - serving up fun!
Veteran Owned, Operated and Proud Of It!
It was a moment in time that changed the destiny of Military Veteran Bill Dickinson forever.
Having gotten out of the service, spending time in both Vietnam and Korea, Dickinson was on his way to graduate school for his doctorate.
So it stands to reason when his good friend Dave Stachel, a Toyota mid-west, regional sales manager, proposed opening a daiquiri bar inside of a run down, decaying old cotton mill, on an old street by the river in Savannah, that 'why yes, this is a Can Do for us!' was echoed between them. Such is youth.
And such is great entrepreneurial spirit.
Not only was it a 'Can Do!' but it became one of the fastest growing franchise restaurants here in the South.
The owners, Stachel and CEO Dickinson opened their first restaurant, which in those days was nothing but a bar, on St. Paddy's Day in 1990. One lucky day in history because now, Wet Willies has 14 locations with a 15th under construction, two others with leases and plans in the works for 20 locations total by 2012.
I think that's a 'Can Do' for this mastermind team of spirited entrepreneur's!
Dickinson coins his success to several principles. Most important, stick to the original plan of design.
Such as Wet Willie's in The Old Cotton Mill on River Street in Savannah. Whether by fluke or sheer genius, their plan worked, so stick to the plan. This includes:
always build in a historic area, using historic building material and incorporating new structure - design - ambiance and sound. If you build in a mall, use the old historic building material from that region.
Add in only the highest quality ingredients in your food and keep your food menu simple and you've got it made.
Fantastic food, flavorful daiquiris in a fun atmosphere. In that, you've got - Wet Willie's!
After two years in the making, Fayetteville finally has our very own Wet Willie's, with entrepreneur Josh Collins and partner/spouse Tonia Collins at the helm.
Together they are owners of Huske Hardware with Team Collins, along with Wet Willie's.
Josh and Tonia have a great history of success, due to hard work, belief in each other, team spirit and their 'Can Do' attitude.
Together, their love of the heart of our city, historic downtown, as well as their commitment to our community, make them one fantastic entrepreneurial couple.
Most recently, our very own Josh Collins was the winner of Vetrepreneur of The Year. Chosen out of 15,000 vet's nationwide. Josh's military background is extensive. He's recently been on the front cover of 'NaVOBA Magazine' which has over three-million military members nationwide.
Combining Dickinson's spirit of ownership with Josh and Tonia's is a jackpot. Team Collins has the unique historic building in the heart of our city and their beliefs pretty much mirror Wet Willie's already; quality food in a quality restaurant.
Now onto the menu any foodie would love.
Wet Willie's keeps it simple. Appetizer and party food - lighter fare - sandwiches and wraps along with six different kinds of Black Angus Burgers to choose from.
Along with their main stay, 18 varieties of 'The Worlds Greatest Daquiris' that you can mix and match to make your own unique variety. Fresh, frozen and scrumptiously delicious. Quite like walking into an old fashioned penny candy store where your eye spots everything, all colors at once. You'll want to try each one!
For food, I tried something fun. Their 'Old School Sliders' on a stick. Perfect bar food or for the lighter appetite. It's three cheeseburgers made with Black Angus Beef, formed by hand. Made fresh right in Wet Willie's kitchen. There's a huge difference between hand patted and machine formed. The taste, is distinctive.
Machine formed heats up the meat while it forms the patty, so when you cook it, it's tough in some areas and overcooked. Wet Willie's hand pats their burgers. Mine was tender, delicious and richly flavorful.
Along with this great dish I tried their speciality Daiquiri, Call a Cab. Ah huh. Take this one in slowly folks! It paired well with my burger. I could easily see it with wings as well.
With any burger, sandwich or wrap, you can get their fresh homemade house chips instead of fries, or substitute a side salad, for a dollar.
The sandwich my friend ordered was the popular 'Rachel Panini' made with a huge layer of fresh turkey breast, fresh 1,000 island coleslaw, thick cut quality tasting Swiss cheese and grilled with premium county rye bread. I had to sample it.
Might I say it beat any Ruben Sandwich I've ever had. Buttered and crisp, not the least bit overdone, grilled just the way I like it. The coleslaw was fantastic. Exceptionally flavorful made that way by incorporating the 1,000 dressing into the actual coleslaw mix. Distinctively unique and exceptional.
All Wet Willie's have the same quality of fresh ingredients, but each one, in any given city, is able to choose their own menu according to their area. For example Shrimp and Grits fit the bill here, where they might not in another city.
That, is the major difference between a franchise or a chain. A chain, all food items are the same.
A franchise, being your the owner of that franchise, you choose the menu.
Tonia Collins excels at this and it's her keen eye and detail that oversees this Wet Willie's.
While you're there, bask in the ambiance of the interior walls with their beautiful murals, in whichever direction you look, you're sure to see something different. It's two levels with an outside deck off the top level overseeing the outside deck on the ground level. This summer it's going to be all the rage, hands down.
Meanwhile enjoy the gorgeous inside and keep in mind they have a VIP lounge as well.
Wet Willie's was made to have it all and we're so glad you're here, Fayetteville was made to be a part of your Veteran Entrepreneur Spirit.
Instant charm, murals, music, fun, food and ambiance, awaits! Cheers!