SHARONVILLE, Ohio — At the Wing Champ soft opening Friday night, owner Liz Rogers said she believes her new Sharonville eatery will be the start of a triumphant second act.
Rogers, who walked away from a Banks restaurant project owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city of Cincinnati, is trying again with a concept she calls "Cincinnati's one-and-only juke joint."
“We’re going to be bringing a lot of jazz, a lot of blues and some really good Southern-style cooking,” Rogers said. “I’m just, like, really excited, just about the new chapter of my life, being a restaurateur and an executive chef right now.”
Rogers hopes it will be a place folks can unwind while enjoying live music and down-home eats along a popular Sharonville thoroughfare.
Her previous restaurant, Mahogany’s at the Banks, opened in 2012 with the help of a $300,000 loan and $684,000 grant from the city. When it closed in 2014, then-City Manager Harry Black made a deal in 2015 to forgive almost all of the city money she received, only asking Rogers to repay $100,000. By mid-2018, she had repaid $3,200.
Despite the setbacks, Rogers says she's looking ahead at new successes.
"I really wouldn't change it,” she said. “I learned a lot of lessons, but that doesn't mean you have to live in your lessons. And as an entrepreneur, you just have to keep it moving. You just have to keep going until you just get it right."
She said Friday she views Wing Champ as a fresh start.
“That’s why they call it the rear-view mirror,” she said. “You just have to keep focused and looking forward.”
And Friday's soft opening was a moment head chef Shawn Derby said he's been waiting for a long time.
“Just to see the people and see their faces when we deliver that plate of food, it’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling,” Derby said.
Wing Champ will open to the public Feb. 17 at 2343 E Sharon Rd., offering a menu of sandwiches, sweet potato muffins and hickory-smoked wings.
The new location is in a high-traffic area, she added, with plentiful parking. Rogers said she hopes that will make a crucial difference.
“People are super excited (about the restaurant) because it represents hope,” she said. “It represents the fact that no matter what you go through, no matter what adversity you go through, no matter how public something can be, a stain on your life and your spirit, that you can just find the strength to keep going.”