By Ann Leach
Floyd Hackett was working in Memphis for Pfizer Pharmaceutics and was ready for a change. Managing work stress meant grilling out and deep-frying turkeys for Floyd’s co-workers, family and friends. He shared his talent at a family reunion in Joplin over 20 years ago held at a building on Broadway Avenue owned by his uncle. He asked his aunt and uncle if there were any hot wing places in town and his aunt asked, “What’s a hot wing?” And the idea for a place that featured Southern soul food was born.
Hackett wanted to sample the Joplin area before committing to his idea, so every other weekend he would travel from Memphis to Joplin and deep fry wings out of his turkey pot in that Broadway Avenue building. He accepted donations and used the money to buy more products. He continued his research by watching the TV show, Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine, dissecting Irvine’s advice to each week’s featured restaurant owner and implementing it into his own business plan. “That show taught me so many important things to look for in order to keep from failing that I had never thought about,” Floyd said. “It helped me improve and stay on point. It was like a million dollars of free information, and anybody running a restaurant would benefit from it, too.”
Balancing business and life as partners for 20 years has been quite the journey for Floyd and Jacqueline Hackett. But they would do it all again without changing a thing. “I believe that we go through things for a reason and there is a lesson that we are supposed to learn,” Jacqueline Hackett said. “Our journey has strengthened our marriage and taught both of us valuable lessons. We have been so blessed.” Floyd echoed the sentiment and said, “I enjoy what I am doing, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The couple have found their natural flow when it comes to work tasks: Jacqueline manages the accounting and personnel, handles food and supplies purchasing, maintains social media, oversees private parties and catering orders, and ships online orders to customers across the country. Floyd creates the sauces and rubs, does some bartending, steps in to handle a plumbing or electrical challenge, manages the front and back-of-house, and serves as a mentor to employees.
“Floyd is much better at the mentoring than I am,” Jacqueline said. “I can truly say we both try to nurture and teach our young staff as well as some of the older ones about life, because some of them did not get that information in their home.”
The restaurant currently employs anywhere from 40 to 45 staff members, but there is always turnover due to personnel challenges. “Life is very difficult for so many; I think it is just the times we are living in right now,” Jacqueline said. The Hacketts show their appreciation of staff efforts in little ways.
“We want to encourage them and show them we care so we have an employee of the month recognition and every year I cook a down-home Christmas dinner for them and we have Christmas parties with activities and gifts. We also believe in promoting in-house, so we try to encourage them to work hard so they can grow with us.”
When they started the restaurant in 2003, children Floyd Jr., Je’von and Jeremey worked with them after school and during school breaks. “We supported them in their school activities by allowing them to have a flexible work schedule so they could participate,” Jackie said. “We wanted them to learn how to work but also be a kid and enjoy their high school experiences. The boys became adults and worked full-time, starting in the kitchen and moving to cashiers and on to restaurant managers. Jacqueline said, “I would say for the most part we had many happy memories.”
The business outgrew the Broadway Avenue building, and the Hacketts found their current location on Main Street. Jacqueline said, “Downtown was the perfect location for expansion. We were the first hot wing restaurant in Joplin and became a staple in the downtown community.”
The couple picked downtown Joplin for the location, space and visibility. “It has allowed us to grow from a 5,000-square-foot building to a 15,000-square-foot one that includes two dining rooms, a private party space and a full-size sports room. The Lord has blessed us, and we can now seat over 450 guests,” Jacqueline said.
As the Hacketts look ahead to the next 20 years of life and love, they continue to share the same vision. Floyd said, “We’re going to keep up with the current trends and make sure the restaurant is operating in top-notch condition. We have been blessed and favored in this area and we enjoy our local customers and those from across the country.” And Jacqueline added, “We are going to let Jesus lead us and we are going to be obedient. We always pray for our next moves and then we are patient and wait. That’s how we have managed to sustain our business and our marriage for over 20 years.”