Bosses, the East Memphis hot wing restaurant that has been closed since March, is for sale, says owner John Daniel Yacoubian.
He plans to sell the 10-year-old restaurant, which is known for its honey gold, honey hot, and other wings, at 5030 Poplar Avenue Suite Number Three.
“We shut down March 11,” says Yacoubian, 38. “We were the first restaurant in Memphis to close, I think, due to COVID.”
They had been keeping up with news about the virus since November or December of last year, he says. “We knew if something like that came over here it could get out of hand. And the nature of the virus was pretty scary from the perspective of somebody trying to avoid getting it. So, on top of it being deadly to older people, we were around older people, my parents and Ashley’s [his wife] mom, my wife is immune compromised because of medication she takes takes for Crohn’s.”
So, he says, “We’re not able to take any risks, really.”
Also, he says, “I always try to plan out everything as much as possible for the restaurant. And I hire young people. I know they would never want anything bad to happen. It’s very difficult for me to feel like I have control over something going on outside of the restaurant. And I couldn’t reasonably expect somebody to change all their social behavior. Especially, for people in their late teens and early 20s.”
He considered re-opening if a vaccine was introduced. “I was talking to Ashley. I was saying, ‘If there was a vaccine, this thing could be done by the end of this year.’ And she said, ‘No. That’s not how it works. It would be at least a year. At the very least, more like a year and a half.’ This was something that if we were going to reopen, the entire dynamic was going to be different.”
Yacoubian decided to sell the restaurant and work at his father’s 86-year-old jewelry store, Daniel Yacoubian Jewelers, which is next door to the restaurant. “My dad asked me if I wanted to help him with the jewelry store about a month ago.”
He remembers the day they closed. He had just ordered wings. “I had probably 20 cases or something. Maybe got through three or four in a day, so it was a ton. It was probably almost 2,000 wings we ended up tossing.”
The restaurant has not yet been sold. “But there’s been some interest. People have been interested. For me, I would like to see somebody in the space using the space because it’s our building and we like to see it full.”
But, he says, “I ran it the way I wanted to. And if it’s somebody else in Bosses, it would be like a different restaurant to me.
“I was always realistic about who I was and what the business itself was. And I take pride in my actions and efforts and all that went into the business. But even then I felt like it was not necessarily my business because it was my family’s building. It was like growing up in my family’s house. It was never really yours. You’re just occupying that space.”
Restaurant business was not his lifelong dream. “I never thought when I went into it I’d be doing restaurants the rest of my life. I didn’t set out to have a 50-year or 100-year business.”
But people went wild over his hot wings, including his most popular ones: honey gold and honey hot. “We’re also known for our seasoned wings and seasoned fries. We use the same seasonings for both.”
His “Questionable Decision” extra-hot-Buffalo-sauce wings, were acclaimed by Men’s Journal, Yacoubian says. “They had a list of the top 15 wing posts in the United States and we made it.”
They will sell the recipes along with the equipment when they sell the restaurant, as long as the new owner keeps the name Bosses, he says.
As for the name, Yacoubian says, “My little brother came to us with the name. That was more about the way the word sounds and the shortness of it. And it’s catchy. Everybody has their own interpretation, but it means ‘multiple bosses.’ So, that was kind of the collaboration between the family and the input of other family members.”
And, he says, “When you have to put up a neon sign, it’s $1,000 a letter. You’ve got to keep it kind of brief. I wanted ‘Memphis Chicken Academy,’ but I started calculating how much that would cost. I said, ‘No, way we’re going to do it.’”