The Medical District circa 2015 was a vastly different place than it is today. Our still-growing and visibly thriving community felt very different. Community events were scarce, few restaurants were open, and MMDC was a year from launching.
To say it was uncertain whether a small, locally-owned business would survive here eight years ago is an understatement. But that’s just what Tiffany and Riko Wiley did.
Beginning as a food truck in 2014, the husband and wife duo got the idea to open up a brick-and-mortar location after serving Youth Villages on Super Sunday. A local landlord at the event suggested they look into the Madison Heights neighborhood of the Medical District. Soon after, they decided to make the leap and open up shop at 1329 Madison Ave.
With limited working capital, Tiffany and Riko dedicated themselves to their business, quickly garnering acclaim for their wings. After our organization's founding in 2016, we worked with them to get grant approval and spread the word.
Tiffany and Riko defeated all doubters with their passion for food and their kitchen skills. Riko’s Kickin’ Chickin’ is a pillar of the neighborhood. Their success encourages other entrepreneurs to plant roots here and further transform our district from the inside out.
Earlier this month, we sat down with Tiffany to chronicle her story and learn from her insights and perspective.
There are a lot of wing places in Memphis. What makes Riko’s Kickin’ Chickin’ different?
Because we don’t only have wings. We're like a one-stop shop here. You don’t have to go somewhere else to get a full meal. We try to make everything affordable for families so they can enjoy themselves together. So that’s also why we offer a lot of vegetables, such as our salad combos. We also have tacos, which have become a top menu item recently.
When did you start your business?
We started our food truck in 2014 and our location here in 2015/16.
What led you to the Medical District?
We were asked to cater Super Sunday for Youth Villages. A local landlord there said, “your food is great. You know, you should have a restaurant,” which got us thinking. Then, he showed us this place on Madison. There were not many businesses around, but we stopped by. The area didn't look anything like this! But we felt we could make it work, and now we’re here.
What’s your favorite part of being located here?
I love the people. I love how everyone uses different transportation, whether walking to work, catching a bus, or Uber. I just love it. I love being surrounded by so many other entrepreneurs in the Midtown area. It's amazing. And I love being a resource for different hospitals around us, especially during the COVID. It was so big for people to be able to walk over and grab food from us or for us to be able to deliver without a convenience fee.
What are some struggles you faced as a business owner?
Having access to working capital. I think it's hard being a minority woman in business. We don't have adequate resources most of the time. We're in our business working. We're not able to just step out and do things. So, and that's one reason I love the Medical District is that you guys have a platform for us to go in and see resources like available grants. But outside of that, it’s a struggle. You guys can only offer so much. I want to do stuff like change my door, repaint our walls, and just spruce it up a little bit. Having little time for that is very challenging.
What vision do you have for the future of the Medical District?
Not only for myself but for the whole community. More outdoor eating areas, better lighting, and more security. I would love our exterior wall to be painted to be eye-catching when people come this way. I’d also like to see our sign and other restaurants like Los Comales on the interstate exit sign so they know we’re here. Thank god we've got an excellent social media presence. But it is still hard for customers to get here.
What is your favorite menu item?
That's a tough one. Of course, I love our wings. Wings have always had a special place in my heart. I love turkey burgers. I love the tacos. But you know what, we have delicious salads too. I also love our deep-fried Turkeys. People come all over for those. You name it, from St. Louis, Alabama, Georgia, or Texas, to pick up their turkeys from us. And we start having pick-ups as early as 5:30 am. So turkeys are a big thing.
What is it that you believe your business brings to Memphis?
Lift. This is an awesome city. There’s so much growth and opportunity here. If you're a young entrepreneur, there is a place for you. I'm excited about what we’re currently doing, and we’re looking forward to doing more. We have another restaurant in an Amazon center. So, we get a lot of Amazon workers that come on here to say, man, I've never even been on this side of Madison! So that's exciting to let them know that a lot is happening in this neighborhood.