Wings Over Ithaca closed abruptly last month after New York State Department of Taxation and Finance charged franchise owner Bruce McPherson with 26 charges of tax evasion. The east hill eatery could soon reopen under new ownership.
Like its predecessors in Albany, Storrs, and other areas, this locally franchised wingery, which opened about 14 years ago, focused on serving and delivering hot, fresh, meaty chicken wings, as well as hand-battered “boneless wings,” or chicken tenders.
When Wings Over Ithaca closed, it left a number of cooks, counter staff, and delivery drivers suddenly out of work, according to a longtime customer and Cornell student who’s using the pseudonym Sarah Smith. “The employees were a ‘work family,’ and they miss working together,” she told us.
That’s also true of general manager Mitchell Blinn, hired by McPherson to run this location and also unexpectedly out of work. Blinn hopes to reopen Wings Over Ithaca as a new business.
“Smith” started an online petition to collect support for bringing back Wings Over Ithaca, and as of this writing the petition has collected 344 signatures. “I appreciate her help in getting the word out about my staff losing work and wanting to come back,” Mitchell Blinn tells us.
She also set up a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of raising money to help open a new restaurant, saying Cornell University Real Estate, which owns and operates East Hill Plaza, had declined to rent to a new incarnation of Wings Over Ithaca.
That’s not the case, says Cornell associate director of real estate Kristin E. Gutenberger. “Cornell, as landlord, would not be opposed” to signing a new lease with a new Wings Over Ithaca franchise, “assuming the space has not already been rented,” she tells us. “We are actively seeking to re-lease the space as soon as possible.”
Blinn also has no objection to the eatery’s original spot. “I had a great relationship with the landlord,” he says, and has “nothing but good things to say about them.”
“Starting over fresh is a priority,” Blinn tells us. He and his team “have an agreement in place with investors” and are “moving forward aggressively toward being open soon.” In the meantime, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time at home. “I like to cook at home. This time has given me a chance to do that more.”
In the meantime, the former Wings Over Ithaca location has been entirely cleared out, and a handwritten sign remains in the door to let unaware customers know the restaurant is closed, if they stop by for a chicken wrap, or the lunch buffet.
“Wings Over left a big gap in the market,” says Kevin Sullivan, owner of Jack’s Collegetown Grill and Luna Inspired Street Food, both of which serve wings. “We’re doing boneless and bone-in in high volume at Jack’s,” he tells us, and Luna has tofu wings on the menu.
Where else can you get wings, until Wings Over Ithaca returns?