This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about people living and working in the Mount Vernon business community.
This week’s Q&A profiles Wingstop Alexandria owner Kevin Lowry. The shop is located at 8723 Cooper Road (nestled between Tubby’s Chili Parlor and Spanish grocery stores in the Cooper Center Shopping Center) in Alexandria.
Wingstop Alexandria has been in business now for 10 years. The eatery offers chicken wings, boneless chicken wings and strips, chicken sandwiches, fresh made dips and a number of side dishes, including fresh cut seasoned fries, cold potato salad, creamy coleslaw and bourbon baked beans. Wingstop offers an array of flavors ranging from Original Hot, Louisiana Rub, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Hawaiian and Lemon Pepper to Cajun and Atomic. The restaurant, which has a staff of 15 employees, also carries a unique beer selection that always features two seasonal brews on tap, such as Millennium Ale from Old Dominion Brewery and Belgian Abby Ale.
Lowry is committed to ensuring that the freshest products are served in his restaurant. He uses fresh vegetables for the vegetable sticks, fresh cabbage in his creamy coleslaw, and even genuine Kentucky Straight Bourbon for his bourbon baked beans. He also uses wings with 100 percent white meat and trans-fat free shortening.
Originally from Baltimore, Kevin considers himself a “Virginian” ever since his family moved to the Northern Virginia area back in the 1970s. He attended the University of Maryland, and received an undergraduate degree in Management Information, and a graduate degree in Technology and Computer Science.
Kevin, who has eight children ranging in ages from four to 25, currently lives in the Alexandria area. Two of his children attend Mount Vernon High School.
How did you become interested in your line of work?
I was originally involved in a sports store business venture with my brother in Arlington. We mainly sold golf and tennis supplies. After I graduated college, I was commissioned in the Navy, and I served all the way to Lieutenant Commander for seven years. After the Navy, I went into Defense Contracting in the IT and telecommunications world. All my life, I had been groomed to think about more of a conservative approach on how to make a living. However, after reading a very meaningful book, I literally had an epiphany in my late 40s. I realized that I wanted to go into business on my own, but I needed to figure out how to take something I love, and actually make a living out of it. I realized I liked beer, wings and football and eventually discovered the Wingstop franchise. The irony of it all is that the day I signed my franchise agreement, I received a layoff notice from the large telecommunications company I had been employed with for years. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.
What’s an interesting aspect of your job (compared to other jobs you have had in the past)?
In my previous career, it often took years to see the fruition of my work. You could work on a project for weeks, months, or even years at a time, and not always see the results. By owning my own restaurant, it’s nice to see people instantly happy as a result of your hard work.
Do you have any local competition?
I don’t think I have local competition. One of the things about Wingstop is that we are not trying to be ‘everything to everybody.’ We don’t sell subs, sandwiches or other varied menu options. We are very focused on our core product — wings — and we are very good at it. I actually welcome good competition ... it would mean there would be more people out there serving good food.
What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
Definitely the flexibility. I have a good, reliable crew running the restaurant, which helps, frees me up to take care of my kids. It’s also become extremely rewarding for me because I love being such a big part of the local community for the last 10 years. In fact, it’s amazing; I can remember some kids who were in high school back when Wingstop first opened. These kids are now in their mid- to late-20s and keep coming back, some of them bringing in kids and families of their own. I also love when I walk into the bank, or our local grocery stores and other places and hear people say, “Hey, there’s Mr. Wingstop.”
How does Wingstop support the local community?
We hire students from area high schools, and also have at least one intern per semester. We also do a lot of work to support the Children of Maria Foundation, United Community Ministires, area schools, little leagues and other sports teams in the community.
What are your hobbies?
I am a gym rat, and always work out at Gold’s Gym. Besides that, I’m mainly focused on my kids’ activities, and there are a lot of them.
Do you have a favorite area restaurant?
What type of music do you listen to?
It’s all over the place. I like everything from Latin and hip-hop to urban.
If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
I am actually living my dream … this is it. I own a small place that pays the bills, and helps provide for my family. And this allows me to stay in my community and do the things I enjoy on a daily basis, all surrounded by the people I love. And I am very fortunate to have such a good support staff. The Wingstop crew is like a big family, and we all watch out for each other every day.