by Drea Chicas
What pairs better with fried chicken than waffles? Nothing does. That makes Nate’s Wings and Waffles the obvious choice when deciding between Rainer Valley’s latest, chicken-themed restaurants. What’s most exciting about Nate Robinson’s grand opening of this southend gem, however, is not just the mouthwatering cuisine. It’s the kind of business model Robinson is contributing to the community. We should all be taking notes because Nate’s Wings and Waffles is another kind of slam-dunk.
When gentrification negatively affects pockets of the community, as has been the case recently in Rainier Valley, outsiders who don’t understand the community’s history create new businesses and restaurants. These places tend to be overpriced and cater to the appetites of a specific populace; often excluding those of longstanding residents. The newest pubs erected in Hillman City model this pattern. Robinson’s family-run business represents an entirely different narrative—one that challenges current gentrification trends in the southend—and one that is inviting. For one, the chicken is organic, and reasonably priced. It makes sense Robinson understands his customer. He is the customer.
Robinson represents the insider—not the outsider of the community. Growing up, his mother owned a salon on the same block. Oh, and Robinson is a professional basketball player, philanthropist, sneakerhead, and businessman who graduated from Rainier Beach High School. Then he played ball and was a student for the University of Washington. Robinson, therefore, has insight about the Valley no outside business owner can ever have. That’s home court advantage at its finest. This positions Nate’s Wings and Waffles restaurant in a league of its own. Unfortunately, new businesses of the like aren’t necessarily mass producing in the Valley. That could soon change. How can we cultivate more innovators and leaders like Robinson? Let’s learn from Robinson and his business team. If we want to see more businesses like these, we need the inside insight.
As a friend and I waited for the grand opening just before noon on Tuesday, there was already a line that extended down the block. Right in front of us, stood a group of young men from Rainier Beach High School’s basketball team. The chicken prices easy on the pockets. The students enthusiastically waited in line. A special appearance by Nate Robinson caught their attention– they current students and he an alum of Rainier Beach High School. The significance of the moment was beautiful because I’m sure this business was created with them (and so many other people) in mind.
A game changer, both on and off the court, Robinson grabs the red baskets off the counter, proudly taking orders to the customers. He should be proud, he’s an example for all of us.
Nate’s Wings and Waffles is located in Rainier Beach at 9261 57th Ave Seattle, WA 98118