The Kansas City Star
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As J.M. Banks reports “[Kay] Clark started KC’s Wing Bar in 2017 from a simple love of cooking. She expanded to special orders for family and friends, and before she knew it, she was fulfilling numerous orders from strangers, working in her cousin’s kitchen.”
Kay Clark has frightening news for her customers on this Halloween.
The fryer on her food truck is refusing to light, so there will be none of her coveted chicken wings at the Harvest Moon on the Vine trick-or-treat event in the Jazz District. Clark, owner of KC’s Wing Bar, does not get frustrated or pack up and leave.
“We can still pass out candy to the kids,” says Clark. The looks of disappointment are a testament to the reputation of her wings.
“We still have Ro-tel, desserts and lemonade we can sell,” Clark says to regulars and newcomers alike.
Clark started KC’s Wing Bar in 2017 from a simple love of cooking. She expanded to special orders for family and friends, and before she knew it, she was fulfilling numerous orders from strangers, working in her cousin’s kitchen.
KC’s Wing Bar keeps it simple with seven flavors of original sauces and dry rubs.
“People would tell me that my wings were really good when I cook them for family and friends. It was suggested to me to go into business,” Clark says. “I’ve always loved cooking wings and think of myself as a wing connoisseur. There wasn’t a lot of choices outside of franchises in the city. It made sense because I was looking for something to get out of the daily grind.”
In September, Clark, along with business partner Eric Simmons, bought a food truck, and it has fast become a common fixture at area events. In addition to Halloween, she says she worked five other events in October. Before they had the food truck, her catering team could be out every day in the full swing of summer.
Unforeseen setbacks like a busted fryer are new for the 27-year-old Southwest High School graduate and mother of three. Clark understands hiccups like this are a part of the game. To get the truck on the road, Clark went about the tedious task of obtaining several licenses for the business and catering, and permits required to operate the food truck.
Clark has seen her fan base grow. Online, she has thousands of followers across various platforms. She understands the importance of not only word of mouth but social media promotion.
“People look for the truck. They will find me and say, ‘I saw somebody post a picture of your wings and I want to try them.’ Or someone will post a picture, and people would comment asking where they got them,” says Clark. She also credits Facebook for forging a community among her fellow truck owners.
“Every experience I have had thus far has been positive. It’s always positivity. Since I got the truck, I would pull up and everyone is excited to see everyone else and nobody is super competitive. KC Soul Sistas for instance are all good people,” says Clark, mentioning another food truck, which specializes in soul food, like fried fish and chicken.
Clark made it a point to not only frequent the popular food truck hubs on certain nights but went out of her way to cover most of the youth, community and small business vendor events in the Black community. With many Black people focusing their dollars into smaller minority ventures, Clark sees this time as a vital moment for collaboration.
One such idea was Wings and Wine at the Artis Event Space off 30th and Cherry streets, where she hosted this presentation of pairing different wines and wing flavors.
With the weather getting colder and fewer events for the truck to serve, she partnered with The Corner Bar and Grill in the Jazz District for wing Wednesday, providing a sit-down restaurant feel to Clark’s on-the-go wings.
For the Black-owned Corner Bar, which has been open for two years, the collaboration is welcome to bring in her crowd and introduce The Corner’s crowd to the unofficial queen of food truck wings.
“We are all young Black entrepreneurs who wanted to come together to provide something to the community and try to help each other out,” says Se’Arra Jackson, the bar’s general manager. “We wanted to create an environment to eat good and play games and be safe.
“The thing about KC’s Wing Bar that drew our attention was the motivation that they have, where they came from, where they are now. She has a Cinderella story.”
Nov. 4 marked the initial launch night for the joint venture. The front of the venue is chill with a DJ playing music and drinks being served at the bar. In the kitchen in back, Clark, joined by friend La’Shay Mitchell, and cousin Rose Donald, work frantically to keep up with the rush from patrons and carryout orders.
The secret to her success? “I put love in all my food. We take our time with everything. We keep our sauces in a warmer, so everything stays fresh. We take our time because it’s all about the flavor,” says Clark.
She hopes to expand soon into her own restaurant and release her own line of wing sauces. Clark feels encouraged in the constant support she has received throughout the city.
“I mean we started out in a kitchen making plates, now we have a whole truck,” Clark says. “I have no doubt we will be in a physical location sooner than later. But we will just have to wait and hope things keep going well.”
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