The preferred sandwich of Cory Nadilo, the 26-year-old owner of Wings Your Way, one of Manchester's newest downtown restaurants, is the "Monica Lewinsky" - a buffalo chicken wrap loaded with shredded cheese and tortilla strips, "which will go down in history just like Ms. Lewinsky herself." The wrap's suggested drink pairing? "The Wet Willy." While the humorous menu may be a sign of youthful ownership, there are few other outward signs in the restaurant. What began as a small take-out operation selling spicy chicken wings to hungry University of New Hampshire business majors and grad students in Durham has since become a notable chain of New Hampshire restaurants that opened its newest location in June at 1181 Elm St. in the Queen City. Evolving out of a business plan that Cory developed while studying business management at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, the first Wings Your Way opened in 2005 when he was just 21 with help from a home loan and credit cards. "I always wanted to work for myself," said Cory. With his sister Kirby working the counter and his father Rudy lending his business expertise, the small takeout restaurant took off, landing Cory NHBR's 2006 Emerging Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. After first joining the Wings team at age 19, Kirby has become the face of the North Hampton restaurant (which won New Hampshire Magazine's Favorite Seacoast Restaurant in 2009), out on the floor and as outgoing as Cory is reserved. Despite the occasional sibling squabble growing up, the pair has discovered that their business skills balance "like a Venn Diagram," said father Rudy. Dynamic duo"They're just a perfect team. He's a behind-the-scenes, operational computer geek," said the elder Nadilo, adding that Cory runs the restaurant's complicated computer systems and works with all the vendors. "Kirby is the other side of him. She's the friendly face out front, the 'hostess with the mostess,' who deals with all the staff and employees and trains everybody.""I could not do this without Cory," said Kirby. "It's two completely different roles.""The stuff that I do, she can't do," said Cory, but "what she can do, I can't even touch." For Rudy, who is in charge of all the major marketing, it's not difficult sacrificing control to his children, who he said have a maturity and business sense beyond their combined 50 years. Often, new vendors direct questions toward Rudy assuming he's the boss, but he always defers back to Cory, explaining that the kids really are in charge. "The investors like that I'm there because I'm a known quantity, who in their mind provides the adult supervision," said Rudy. "What they don't realize is Cory's providing the adult supervision and Kirby and I are goofing around."Because they wanted to expand their menu and market, the Nadilos - who are originally from Connecticut and now live in Stratham - sold the Durham location (which kept the same name) and, with help from investors, opened in North Hampton, where they could offer full-service dining. Following the success on the Seacoast, Cory scouted and settled on his next location, the 8,000-square foot space on the corner of Elm and Bridge Streets that formerly housed the Brass Monkey and Envy nightclubs. After an extensive five-month renovation - which necessitated gutting and redoing all the plumbing and electrical from scratch - the newest Wings incarnation opened in June to positive reviews. Many customers were also surprised to learn the restaurant serves more than just chicken wings - a whole lot more, in fact. The eight-page menu features burgers, seafood, quesadillas, salads, burritos, pressed sandwiches and wraps, a kids' menu and more, all of which are customizable to the guests' tastes (where the "your way" concept derives). The menu also abounds with pop culture references and dishes with borrowed celebrity names, like, for example, the "Huge Hefner," a bacon-and-chicken-topped Cajun burger whose suggested drink pairing is "3 Redhook Blondes".With the bar area separate from the dining room, the restaurant markets itself as a casual, family-friendly alternative to the upscale restaurants, sandwich shops and bars lining Elm Street.Expansion? After a strong opening, business has been steady at the eatery, which could, at any given happy hour, be serving families in the dining room, singles at the bar and couples in the atrium.Plans for future New England expansion exist, but are not currently in the works while the Nadilos recover from the massive Manchester overhaul that took double the intended time to complete. Eventually the family hopes to operate a small chain across New England, though whether they want five or 15 restaurants varies by the day. "I know that I feel very rewarded on a day-to-day basis," said Kirby. "When I think about the future and where we could be in five years, it's very bright and I don't think it's out of reach at all."Kathleen Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article appears in the January 28 2011 issue of New Hampshire Business Review