CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dreams do come true, if you believe in yourself and work hard toward your goals. Just ask Adrian "Bay" Wright, owner of Dem 2 Brothers and A Grill, 426 Virginia Street West. His restaurant fliers accurately state that it is "located on the best smelling corner in Charleston."
You'll immediately notice Wright's warm laugh as he busily prepares orders for patrons enjoying the mouth-watering aromas. His staff is equally charming with merry Santa hats and friendly smiles.
In August 2011, Wright set up a large grill and concession area at the corner of Virginia Street West and Central Avenue at Five Corners on the West Side. He opened a business there after he came home for his best friend's wedding that summer and his family persuaded him to stay.
He had dreams of opening a restaurant in the red brick building across the Five Corners intersection and of owning a food truck for when he took his cooking show on the road.
After two years of diligent labor, he achieved his dreams.
"I've had the food truck for about three months. It's fully equipped with everything. I take it around to festivals. I did the MultiFest, the Dunbar Fall Festival, and West Virginia State's Homecoming. It's been good for me," Wright said.
"Last Saturday was our first day in the restaurant. We're open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. I'm going to see how it works with these hours. I've got to get a feel for what will work," he said.
Wright explained that he was not sure what to expect with a transition from outside pick-up food to inside dining.
"The biggest thing is my customers. I tell people, 'Come again and tell a friend.' That's my motto. The word of mouth is the best advertisement I can ever have. I'm my own competition. I'm not in competition with anyone else. I thank God and move forward. I try to get better every day," Wright said.
He is the youngest of 10 children, which led to his nickname "Bay," a fond family variation of "baby."
"I have seven brothers but not all of them work in the business. I've got a couple of cousins who help. This is a man-run restaurant. It's all chefs," Wright said.
The 52-year-old is accustomed to working around a lot of testosterone. The former Charleston High School athlete lettered three years in basketball and one year in football before graduating in 1979.
He was working as a forklift operator when he was recruited by Virginia Union University to play football. He was 22 years old. In 1986, he led the Richmond Panthers team to an undefeated regular season, a Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship, and was named offense player of the year. He played professional football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants from 1987 to 1991.
After his professional football career ended, he owned a barbecue restaurant in Tampa. "My father, Smoot, and mother, Virginia, always cooked. My father catered. I've loved cooking all my life. This was my passion after football. This is a job for some but it's fun for me," Wright said.
Diners will enjoy reading articles about his life and football career on the freshly painted interior brick walls of the restaurant. One article describes Wright as a "265-pound flesh and blood bulldozer who makes opposing athletic directors double check to see that all insurance policies have been paid."