Wing Wagon to close at year end

Wing Wagon, 71 Public Square, Watertown. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — When she and her husband opened the Wing Wagon restaurant 39 years ago, many people in the north had no idea what a chicken wing was, Mary Ann Wert remembered.

“We had to teach them about them,” she recalled.

Two days after she announced that she was closing the Public Square takeout restaurant, Wing Wagon was swamped with customers wanting their last-minute chance to have the menu item that introduced the region to the chicken wing. She had to come in on her day off because it was so busy.

It will be 39 years ago on Wednesday that she and her husband Chuck opened Wing Wagon, but she ran the restaurant without him for the past four years. He died in 2017.

She was all set to give up the business when he passed away. A friend talked her out of not making a rash decision and reconsider it six months later.

“It’s now four years later and I’m doing it now,” she said.

The Wing Wagon’s last day will be New Year’s Eve, always one of the restaurant’s busiest nights of the year.

Over the years, both chicken wings and Public Square changed a lot.

Many of the businesses with which Wing Wagon once shared the square are long gone, she said. She recalled that Wing Wagon, at 71-73 Public Square, moved into the former Sylvia’s Gift Shop.

The size of an average chicken wing has gotten bigger over the decades, she said. When they opened, 10 chicken wings weighed a pound — these days, each of them are about 28 to 30 ounces.

She and her husband always boasted they had the best chicken wings around. They sometimes checked out their competitors’ wings, but they never were as good as Wing Wagon’s, her husband always said.

Before devoting much of her life to the chicken wing, she got her first taste of one when her husband brought some home from a place in Oswego. They were inside a hot car all day, so they got soggy, she remembered.

He insisted they should open up a chicken wing restaurant here in Watertown.

“I thought he was crazy,” she said, until they drove down to Oswego so she could try them.

As it turns out, Mrs. Wert has never ventured to Buffalo to try a wing at the Anchor Bar, the home of the original chicken wing, she said.

And now Mrs. Wert, 68, looks forward to her retirement. She plans to spend more time with her hobby, singing as a member of a barber shop quartet and Northern Blend Chorus.

She’ll also be able to go on longer vacations now that she won’t have be at the restaurant filling orders for inventory and making sure that payroll was done.

“I look forward to every day is Saturday,” she said.

But she’ll miss her customers and her employees who she considers family.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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