Joe Trez isn’t hurting for customers at his Cotati chicken wing restaurant. Even so, he’ll be shutting the doors on Aug. 15, after crushing supply chain shortages, ongoing labor scarcity and a general frustration over inevitable power outages and county permitting challenges.
But mostly, he’s closing because he just can’t get any chicken wings.
According to Trez, wings are the most popular part of the chicken these days and demand has far outpaced supply. Local Rocky chickens are simply too small for his meaty wings, he said. Winter storms last February in Texas that killed millions of chickens, COVID-19 shutdowns at processing plants and reduced production by powerhouses like Tyson have more than doubled wholesale prices, forcing restaurateurs like Trez to charge a ridiculous $3 per wing in order to make even a small profit.
So he’s closing his brick-and-mortar restaurant at 101 E. Cotati Ave. and retiring his food truck rather than continue to wait for better days.
“I waited it out and waited it out, but things are just getting worse. It’s offensive to charge $18 for a six pack of wings. That’s crazy,” Trez said. Bone-in chicken wings comprise up to 70% of his sales, and unlike other restaurants, he can’t simply take them off the menu and replace them with something else.
Wings aren’t the only problem for the popular Wing Man. He can’t find to-go containers and he worries he could lose a huge amount of inventory during power outages. He said Sonoma County regulations often make it difficult to be a food operator.
“I just wanted to do something different and make everything from scratch by myself. It was just hard,” he said. For now, he’s planning to take some time to ponder his next move and possibly do some catering.
He’s excited, however, for the next building tenant, Jamilah Nixon’s Jam’s Joy Bungalow. Much of the Wing Man staff will stay on to work for Nixon, Trez said.
Nixon announced the second official location for her Southeast Asian fusion cuisine (in addition to her truck) on Tuesday. She’ll be using the Cotati restaurant as a central kitchen to supply her food truck, catering business and Sebastopol location (150 Weeks Way). She previously announced a Santa Rosa location in the works at the corner of Fourth and B streets.
“This is a great spot, and I’m sad to leave, and I hope it’s easier for (Nixon),” Trez said.
“I told the staff that 90% of restaurants fail in first year,” he added. “We made it through two, so at least we beat that. It’s been a wild ride.”