By Michele DeLuca email@example.com
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — There was no soft opening.
Apparently the locals had been watching the corner on Military Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls for months after a colorful sign was placed that read: Duff’s Famous Wings.
The chicken wing restaurant that prompted President Barak Obama to stop between flights, and which also won a televised food war against the restaurant where wings were invented, finally opened in Niagara Falls late in July.
The soft opening the new owners had planned on never happened. The place has been jumping from the start, say the four owners who were fans of Duff’s wings long before they became franchise owners.
“We’re long-time customers. We’re very familiar with the brand and the food,” said Maged Natanios, one of the owners. “We love it.”
“When we thought about opening a Duff’s it was almost simultaneous — Niagara Falls,” added Natanios, noting that the four come from a large Lebanese family who used to picnic in the state park when they were children. Sam Mansour, an uncle to the three others, also owns a grocery store in the city.
There was also easy consensus among the four on where in the city they would open their new franchise.
“This corner screamed at us,” said Charbel Natanios, brother to Maged. The fourth partner is Jean Maalouf, who is married to Charbel and Maged’s sister, Rosemary.
All of the four have other jobs. Sam works at the family grocery store at 13th Street and Pierce Avenue. Maged has a job in Bethesda, Md., working for Marriott International; Charbel co-owns a UPS store in Cheektowaga; and Jean owns Versailles Salon and Day Spa in Williamsville.
None of the four were prepared for the enthusiastic reaction to their opening July 22.
“We’re blessed,” said Maged. “People just kept streaming in.”
On a recent Wednesday, during a fast paced lunch hour, Niagara Falls residents Laurie and John Mettler, enjoying a plate of wings, confirmed what the owners said about locals being even more supportive than anticipated.
The pair said they’d begun watching for the restaurant to open as soon as they saw the sign go up.
“I said, ‘Oh, we’re getting a Duff’s,’ “ noted Laurie, who said the wings were “really good.” John, who admitted he was not really a wings fan, declared the wings “fantastic.”
The Niagara Falls restaurant is the ninth Duff’s location, and the third franchise. The original Duff’s was opened on Sheridan Drive and Millersport Road in Amherst in 1946 and began serving wings in 1967, according to Jeff Feather, president of the Duff’s franchise group.
There are five Duff’s stores owned by the original company, including one in Cheektowaga where the President of the United States stopped in for an order in 2010. The company decided to move towards franchising when, after gaining presidential approval, their wings beat out the famous Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were invented, in a Travel Channel food war in 2012.
There is now a Duff’s franchise at the Eastern Hills Mall and another in Texas, just outside of Dallas. Feather said franchises can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million depending on a variety of factors, and noted that the company’s primary franchise goal is to continue to grow around the region and into Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Duff’s provides instruction and counsel to all franchise owners, he said, as the company is very protective of the brand. “We like to quote the movie “Apollo 13,” he said. “Failure is not an option.”IF YOU GO • WHAT: Duffs Famous Wings • WHERE: 8351 Niagara Falls Blvd. • FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 236-0333 or visit www.duffswings.com