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When Jimere Eckwood-Parker was a kid, his mom worked a lot to support the family. So, when it came to cooking for himself, he had to be innovative.
“I used to make chili cheese nachos instead of just eating nachos. Put toppings on pizza rolls. Nobody taught me how to cook honestly,” Eckwood-Parker told The Black Wall Street Times in June.
As the owner of King’s Wings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Eckwood-Parker’s unique use of seasonings has chicken-lovers licking their fingers in anticipation for his next pop-up.
The city’s Mother Road Market, a community space offering a collection of food joints, became Oklahoma’s first food hall when it opened in 2019 near the heart of Tulsa on the historic Route 66. Just eight months after securing a coveted pop-up spot inside the Market, King’s Wings is quickly becoming a crowd favorite among fans of spice, flavor and palatable protein.
“It’s the sauce. That’s all I can tell you, man. It’s the sauce,” Eckwood-Parker said.
Originally from Peoria, Illinois, Jimere Eckwood-Parker moved to Tulsa as a freshman in high school before majoring in business at Oklahoma State University.
His dad was an entrepreneur. Naturally, “I always knew I wanted to be one,” he said.
Yet, it wasn’t until after meeting his now-wife in Tulsa while working in sales for various companies that he decided to “walk out on faith.”
Since 2012, Eckwood-Parker had a dream of owning a wing spot. With support from his pregnant wife, he decided to take the leap.
Reaching out to his cousin in Arizona in Dec. 2019, who owned a chain of wing joints, Eckwood-Parker flirted with the idea of bringing his cousin’s chain to Oklahoma. Working as a teacher during the pandemic, Eckwood-Parker also had a vision of reaching the youth, along with peoples’ bellies.
After a semester as an emergency certified teacher during the pandemic in 2020, Jimere said it was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done, but he knew if he could do this, he could do anything. So, during his second semester as a teacher, he bought a deep fryer, $140 worth of seasoning, and began inviting friends over every week to try his food.
Instead of googling chicken wings near me, just hit up King’s Wings
With advice from his dad, he decided he would chart a path on his own.
It was one late night while watching a movie with his son and daughter that his dream materialized.
Eckwood-Parker said he fell asleep during the movie. And when he woke up, he had this feeling “you can do it, you got it.”
From 11 p.m. that night until 6 a.m, Jimere started making sauces. “Made seven sauces. I was just in that zone. I was kinda emotional but I was also inspired,” Jimere told The Black Wall Street Times.
From there, he applied for a pop-up space in Mother Road Market, and in October 2021, King’s Wings stepped on the scene.
The first pop-up was less than stellar. With just one fryer to use, Eckwood-Parker described long wait times, refunds, and only 44 orders served. But by the second pop-up, he and his team improved their coordination and ended up doubling their orders.
“If I really wasn’t passionate about it, I might not have persevered,” the husband and father of two said.
Now, customers can find King’s Wings at Mother Road Market two to three times a month. Eckwood-Parker encourages supporters and food lovers to follow King’s Wings on Instagram for the latest updates on when they’ll be at the Market.
A man on a mission
Ultimately, it was his grandma who first introduced Eckwood-Parker to the power of food. She would always cook for a full household of relatives, he said. “My grandma’s thing was chicken and noodles. I still can’t match the recipe. She boiled the noodles in the chicken.”
When asked if his chicken is better than his grandma’s, he hesitated.
Eaten plain, his wings “ain’t touching grandma’s chicken,” he said. But when a customer wants to mess around with adding his signature seasonings, it’s a different story.
“It really was trial and error,” he said, describing what he calls a perfect balance of eight different seasonings.
Fusing his fantastic flavors with his love for educating youth, King’s Wings owner Jimere Eckwood-Parker recently delivered food to the Terence Crutcher Foundation days ahead of Juneteenth, as part of King’s Wing’s community outreach reading program.
“When you’re in alignment man everything lines up for you,” he said.
Beyond that, Jimere said he wants to eventually partner with schools to come out once a month for a “royalty reading program.” Like the old days of rewarding kids who read with pizza hut coupons, Jimere Eckwood-Parker wants to challenge kids to read five to 10 hours a week to get free access to his signature saucy wings.
“In our culture and communities reading is not something that’s preached as being important. It’s really a foundation man. I really got a heart for reading and for children.”
Currently, King’s Wings has entered an accelerator program to bottle two of its signature “big bold flavor” sauces.
“Once we get a brick and mortar, we want to have a retail section where you can buy our sauces,” he said.
The most common feedback he receives from customers is that “the sauce is spicy with a kick, but it doesn’t lose flavor.”
For those picky, half eaters who were scolded by their grandmas for not “cleaning the bone,” perhaps she was preparing you for the day you finally try King’s Wings.
To stay up to date on King’s Wings, visit their Instagram page or text 855-959-2985.