Located in the parking lot adjacent to the corner of Yakima Valley Highway and Factory Road, Ron Gray orchestrates the outdoor propane fueled, cajun deep fryer and happily combines the six baskets of fresh, cooked to order buffalo style chicken wings, skillfully seasoned to bring out a winning smile with every order.
“The thing which sets Gray’s Wings & Things apart and is our signature - is our fresh wings and marinading process,” Gray said during an interview on Monday, Jan. 18. “It’s all about quality and simple ingredients that provide a wonderful flavor to the chicken, complimenting our variety of sauces.”
The one distinct trait the flavor of the crafted food embodies with each juicy and meaningful bite is the “love and heart” that goes into every menu item and brings people to their stand, he proudly added. “I just love cooking. I love to see that smile on people’s faces.”
“With everything going on right now, I mean, you need a good place to go and you get welcomed here like family, and that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back, and the mango habanero sauce wings are super good,” Gustavo Contreras from Sunnyside declared.
The former Hanford employee for six years said he was let go from his job without reason in April last year. Instead of sitting around idly on unemployment and feeling sorry for himself, Gray decided it was time to take the risk even during the pandemic and launch his business.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do for a very, very long time and now that I have the opportunity in these crazy times, it’s actually been a blessing in disguise. The Sunnyside area has really helped us out and responded well to our product and friendly environment,” he expressed.
Gray has prior experience in the food service industry ordering supplies for a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida but not as a business owner or supervising employees. He admitted to learning on the job as they’ve proceeded to expand the business to include catering and area delivery.
“I do things differently, I make sure that everything I get is fresh. It doesn’t sit any longer than 24 hours, from prep time to cook time. The only item that stays frozen is the french fries.”
The entrepreneur’s 10 year long journey includes being a newly married husband to Danielle, a Chief Kamiakan Elementary School teacher, who prepares a daily homemade batch of the popular ranch dressing.
There are 13 different unique sauces which customers can choose to be added directly onto the wings or put on the side for dipping and range from the Scoville heat challenging ‘spitfire’ to the popular ‘spicy barbecue.’
“We don’t really deep fry our wings. We drop them at first to get that nice crispy coating on the outside and on the skin that’s showing, and then cook them through the last five minutes while the customer waits,” Assistant Cook Roberto Garcia explained.
The 19-year-old, Sunnyside High School graduate has been working with the start-up venture for the past six months. “I’m very fortunate to be working here and I’ve always wanted to be a cook, so this is a step in the right direction, Garcia conveyed as he added a sprinkle of secret seasoning to the basket of wings.
Gray’s Wings & Things resembles a neighborly food stand and is designed to follow health protocols and operate safely within the COVID-19 environment. The drive up and comfort food take out business, which began to take off in August last year, recently located to the 2810 asphalt location.
“A lot of our customers say our wings are crunchy with a tender juiciness on the inside. Even wearing a mask, they can still smell the chicken and it smells so good,” Lead Cashier Maria Alvarez acknowledged.
The deployable tent and mobile operation is assembled daily by the three-member crew. They typically start cooking around 11:30 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday and are open until they’re sold out of wings, usually by 6:30 p.m.
The all-weather team competes with mother nature’s unruliness and sometimes those conditions prevent them from opening, however, it seems to be in gear with their determined character.
“This is also a stepping stool for us to be able to get a truck and then hopefully, once everything opens up, if the truck does as good as the tent has and we want to do a storefront with RJ and Maria being my floor and store managers. Because they ride to die with me in this whole operation through the cold and heat and they’ve never complained,” Gray stated.