CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bill Smeedy sold a few wings, sandwiches and pizza when he opened a modest convenience store on the corner of Washington Street West and Seventh Avenue in 1974. A steady stream of building additions and menu expansions ever since established him as Charleston's go-to purveyor of wings with a loyal following.
"We were just a small square of building with about 800 square feet. Brick by brick, we've grown to nearly 8,000 square feet," he said. A glance to the right of the front door shows the original store. Straight ahead is the kitchen that Smeedy added. The dining room followed, then the bar with its more than 20 beers on tap. He added a deck. Then another and closed them both in. For now, a third deck remains uncovered.
His wings are regular chicken wings or boneless strips of chicken breasts tossed with one of his 11 homemade sauces and additional garlic, if requested. He insists on fresh chicken, and prefers wings on the smallish side so he can cook them at a high temperature quickly and cut the amount of oil that soaks into the wing.
Customers flock to the Cold Spot on Tuesday nights when regular wings are 35 cents each. He offers boneless wings for the same price on Wednesdays. Normal prices are 12 for $6.49 or about 55 cents a wing.
"Those are busy days. It's exciting to see so many people liking our food," he said. "We have really good salads, too." Smeedy says his favorite meal is his over-sized Greek and raspberry garden salads with chicken ($6.59) and an order of barbecue wings with garlic.
Many franchises featuring wings have moved into the area, but they haven't seemed to hurt Smeedy's business. There's nothing fancy about the wood-paneled dining room with rolls of paper towels on the tables and casual, friendly staff. Nobody pushes customers out the door to turn over a table. "We don't care how long you're here," he said.
At lunchtime, the tables fill with everyone from judges to office employees to construction workers and professional drivers. They all place their own orders.
"We don't have servers. You go up and place your own order and get your own beer at the bar," he said.
Smeedy, 61, is a Lebanese immigrant, who settled in West Virginia after a youthful stint in the Greek Navy. He traveled the world, but a visit to an uncle who lived in Logan convinced him to move there in 1970.
"I fell in love with West Virginia the first minute I was here," he said. "I'd been around the world several times, and I thought, 'This is my speed.' You can't get lost here like you can someplace like New York City or Hong Kong."
While he lived in Logan, he cooked on railcars for C&O railroad for several years before he looked for a job that would keep him closer to home and his young family. He spotted the convenience store located between Dunbar, North Charleston and Cross Lanes, and opened shop.
He sold wings from the start, but the market was not as vigorous then.
"They were just beginning to be popular when I started. There were only a few other people who sold them. Now, they're just like French fries. They're everywhere," he said.
His wings are special, he said, because he cooks them to order and tosses them in his homemade sauces. At first, he offered sweet and hot barbecue, mild, medium and hot sauces and later added honey mustard, sweet Asian and Agent Orange. "Agent Orange is sweet with extreme heat. You don't know what hit you until afterward," said his son Omar, who manages the Cold Spot with his father. Customers may request additional garlic in any sauce.
Wings fly out the door on Super Bowl Sundays, WVU football game and bowl days and Christmas Eve, which is his second-busiest day of the year. He declined to say exactly how many wings he sells for Super Bowl Sunday, but allowed that it was more than 100,000. "Way over," said Omar.