Dallas Area Chicken Restaurant Still Going Strong After 30 years

Written by The Dallas Weekly

Every now and then a business plan just works. The business owner’s goals come to fruition. And then he or she takes on a more hands off approach.

For Hiawatha Williams, there is too much pride and hope in the Williams Chicken franchise that he established in 1987 to simply step away. The president and founder of one of the longest standing eateries in North Texas has done so much in 30 years, yet he has absolutely no plans to slow down.

“I don’t ever want to get away from what got me to where I am,” says Williams.

The lively and very active Williams has no plans whatsoever to retire. The chicken business provided him his first job, and as long as he is physically able – he wants to work in the business.

Whenever he started out on the venture of attaining a physical location for the first restaurant, Williams experienced his toughest hurdles with securing funds.

“At that time I was only thinking of the one location,” says Williams. “I used all of my personal funds and additional funds given to me by my family.”

Before cementing his plan for Williams Chicken, Williams was actually employed at fellow community staple – Church’s Chicken. The position presented itself to him by way of a college classmate named Ronald Jones. This was around 1969, and Williams was a student at Paul Quinn College (located in Waco, Texas at the time). Williams worked as a cook for Church’s Chicken for two years, but was determined to begin his own business.

Having a mentor in one very business savvy Bob French proved to be incredibly beneficial to Williams. “While I had both support and well wishes from the people in my community, I did also receive support from individuals like Mr. French [who are white],” stresses Williams.

Ultimately leaving Church’s Chicken and embarking on the Williams Chicken journey was truly a leap of faith.

Today there are 40 Williams Chicken restaurants and over 500 employees. The locations are primarily in the Dallas area, but there are five in Fort Worth and there is another in Tyler. Mr. Williams spends a great deal of his time frequenting and working in the original location on Sunnyvale and Bonnie View.

“It was important to me to remain in the Oak Cliff area,” says Williams. “I wanted to be an example that proved you can make it in our area.”

Williams has no reservations about sharing a message of self-respect. There is a no-sagging pants policy in place at all of his restaurants.

“Back when I worked at Church’s Chicken, there were so many young black men drifting away from the very principles that helped us to survive in this country,” says Williams. “I wanted to make sure that I spoke out and stood against these lowest forms of degradation; sagging being one of the more noticeable.”

It has always been his personal mission to positively impact young black men by being a great role model. “They will always see me doing the things that I ask them to do.”

Education is not just something that Williams believes in – he believes gaining and valuing education is essential in having a successful life. The Williams Chicken Partner in Education Program is in place to benefit the lives of youth and children in North Texas.

“We have to show them (young people) examples of the things that we preach,” says Williams. “In each restaurant there are people who can make a living.”

Williams goes on to explain that making a living can indeed be anywhere from $20,000 - $50,000. Not everyone will make six figures, but there is something respectable about earning an honest living and inspiring other people to do the same.

“Your value is in how well you do what you do – not what you do.”

“While not everyone can make a six-figure salary, everyone can get an education in this country,” says Williams. “Education tells you how important you are and how you’ve contributed to the world.”

Every restaurant needs someone to take orders; someone to cook; someone to serve and individuals to clean. To see people work together with a common goal of serving people is an extraordinary sight.

“Manual labor is now looked at as distasteful but it’s far from it,” explains Williams. “I started out cleaning parking lots and working kitchens – I will continue to do both as long as I’m physically able.”

The Williams Chicken franchise has celebrated 30 years of serving the community. “We will continue to expand,” says Williams. “What we don’t want is to overextend ourselves.”

There are individuals in place to assist Williams in ensuring that proper management and staffs are assigned to each restaurant. Rest assured that he will not remove his watchful eye from the business that serves the community so well.

Williams often engages with the youth of the community, visit school campuses and speaks to the greater public about making positive choices.

Recently local students in the Y-Achievers Entrepreneur Camp at Moorland YMCA participated in a "Shark Tank" style competition. The students had the opportunity to pitch their respective business plans and lemonade products before a panel of judges. The students shared details of their business plans and lemonade recipes, hoping their drinks would be sold at a local Williams Chicken restaurant.

The Williams Chicken education foundation donated $5,000 to the YMCA to ensure that similar summer programs and camps are able to continue.

“I finished high school and college because my black parents and my black teachers poured into me and revealed to me that I had choices,” says Williams. “This is the profession that I chose – my education gave me choices.”

Mr. Hiawatha Williams is undeniably in the business of selling chicken and he does so very well, however, the profession that he chose does just as much to cultivate the community.

Visit our business directory to view other black owned businesses in Dallas and the DFW area.

Source: http://www.dallasweekly.com/business/article_1695c170-6bd7-11e7-9332-df4fea40e0f4.html

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