The new Buffalo Wild Wings at 461 Stillwater Avenue in Bangor, near the Bangor Parkade and the I-95 Stillwater Avenue ramps, opened on Aug. 25. Judging by the crowds on Sunday and Monday, local folks were eager to try it out.
“It’s a blur,” said Becky Wilson, co-owner and general manager, speaking Monday night of the Sunday opening. “We weren’t as busy as I would have liked, but we had a very, very busy day. It was steady from the moment we opened until almost the moment that we closed.”
It couldn’t have been much busier, judging from the packed dining room and busy bar. The sports-themed restaurant features a bar and dining room separated by a half-wall, making it ideal for game-night get-togethers or family outings. The 7,200-square-foot building seats 280, plus more on the outdoor patio. With its slogan “Wings, beer, sports,” no matter where you sit, watching the game won’t be a problem, since there are 64 televisions and projection screens ranging from 42 inches to 8 feet by 14 feet.
“I’m so excited to finally be here, because I’ve been waiting to open the store for years,” Wilson said. “To finally have it come true — it’s very emotional for me.”
The store launched with 140 employees to handle the expected busy season, which will likely include a robust couple of opening months followed by a busy holiday season.
This is the fifth store for Wilson’s franchise group, Pictor Enterprises; the others are in Auburn, South Portland, Newington, N.H., and Rochester, N.H. One of Wilson’s business partners, who was originally from New York state, visited Portland several years ago and decided Maine needed a Buffalo Wild Wings. Bangor was actually second on the group’s list, but ended up opening last. But that’s fine with Wilson, because she’s moved to the area and looks forward to living here.
“This is home now,” she said. “I really like it up here. Everyone has been so receptive to us coming in here and so accommodating and so nice, and they’re all so excited. It’s very pleasurable to be here and to do business here.”
Wilson started with Buffalo Wild Wings as a cashier and food runner 11 years ago while a junior at the University of Illinois. The sociology major quickly realized she wanted a career in the restaurant business. Twelve years later, she’s a co-owner of her franchise group.
“I stuck with the company and worked my way up,” she said. “The opportunity was there and I was in the right place at the right time — and [put in] a lot of hard work.”
Wilson said that while Buffalo Wild Wings is a chain, the culture of the company is of a very personal, local presence. That will be very true for her, as she’ll be an owner working in the restaurant.
“We lead by example,” she said. “I always tell the team members, ‘There’s not one thing that I’m going to ask you to do that I haven’t done already myself, or that I won’t do right along with you.’ “
That could be waiting tables, shaking chicken wings in the kitchen or mopping the floor. “It’s whatever needs to be done to make sure that our guests have the kind of experience that we want them to have,” she said.
Despite its name, Buffalo Wild Wings has a full menu with something for everyone — burgers, wraps, sandwiches, salads, children’s food and more, including 30 draft beers. But the wings are the company’s signature offering, and are available with 16 sauces and five dry rubs — some hot, some not and some extremely hot. While Wilson might be a bit biased, she said the wings are fantastic.
“After almost 11 years, I can still eat chicken wings every single day,” she said.
Wilson said that while the restaurant has the perks of a national chain, it’s still a local, personal feel, but one where diners can walk in and talk with the owner or managing partner.
“I feel like it’s kind of the best of both worlds,” Wilson said. “You have the benefits the big chains have, but you have the ‘mom and pop’ kind of feel when it comes down to how we operate the restaurant and take care of our team members and our guests.”
Buffalo Wild Wings was founded in 1982 after Buffalo, N.Y., resident James Disbrow came to Kent, Ohio, and he and a friend couldn’t find anywhere to get Buffalo-style chicken wings. They opened their first restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
The Bangor Buffalo Wild Wings is open from 11 a.m. until 1 a.m. seven days a week. Visit BuffaloWildWings.com to learn more.