A true original! Buffalo Chips Celebrates 30 years in Bonita Springs

The buffalo of Buffalo Chips Restaurant hangs above a doorway donning a Buffalo Bills cap and a plea for tickets.

The buffalo of Buffalo Chips Restaurant hangs above a doorway donning a Buffalo Bills cap and a plea for tickets.

Buffalo Chips GM Chip Greenwood stands by the restaurant's smoker in front of its famous sign, declaring the 30-year-old Bonita Springs hangout "an upscale dive."

Buffalo Chips GM Chip Greenwood stands by the restaurant's smoker in front of its famous sign, declaring the 30-year-old Bonita Springs hangout "an upscale dive."

Everything has a story, whether its been donated by a regular customer or a famous personality, and somehow, owner Al Greenwood manages to keep making space for more.

The Bonita Springs fixture on Old 41 is celebrating its 30th anniversary today with throwback prices to 1982. Patrons will be asked to share some of their favorite stories from Buffalo Chips throughout the years.

"It's never boring around here," said Greenwood's son, Chip, the restaurants' namesake who has served as general manager since 1995. "There's all kinds of stories coming in and out of here. We cater to all types of clientele. I guess that's part of the attraction, there's some really interesting people."

Laura Gates/Banner Correspondent (4)
Buffalo Chips Restaurant has been a fixture along Old 41 since Al Greenwood opened it in 1982.

Laura Gates/Banner Correspondent (4) Buffalo Chips Restaurant has been a fixture along Old 41 since Al Greenwood opened it in 1982.

Many famous faces have stopped in for wings at Buffalo Chips, including Hall-of-Famers like Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills and NHL star Don Edwards of the Buffalo Sabers. The restaurant also has served Bob Denver, who played "Gilligan," and members of the band Guns N' Roses.

"It's not a cookie-cutter type chain thing," Chip said. "All our photographs are authentic of people who have been here."

The best stories, however, come from the locals. Corky Mayhood has been frequenting the restaurant since it opened 30 years ago.

"It's a fun place to come to, the camaraderie is great," he said. "There's a lot of other places to go to, but I come here."

If you go

If you go

30th ANNIVERSARY PARTY

What:10 cent wings (dine-in only), $1 drafts, and $10 BBQ pork dinners, and live music from Don Davis, Beck, and Little Eddie and the Fat Fingers

When: 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

Where: Buffalo Chips

Something else: Bring a lawn chair for seating

Mayhood sat at the bar Monday night -- 60-cent wing night -- near a display of eclectic hats, including a costume-party crown. It's a memento from the day he flew Al Greenwood to Port of the Isles in a helicopter for a statewide wing and chili cook-off.

Greenwood stepped out of the helicopter decked out in royal attire complete with red robe, scepter and crown, declaring himself "The Wing King." His Famous Buffalo Wings later proved his boast was no joke, as he took home the title.

He may don the crown again Saturday as The Wing King drives by in a Cadillac adorned with bull horns. Unfortunately, Al Greenwood won't be able to socialize with his faithful patrons and friends during the anniversary celebration, as he is recovering from a heart attack.

When the Wing King drives by, "we'll all have a cheer and a toast," said Chip, who runs the family business along with brother, J.C.

The celebration kicks off at 4 p.m. with Al's favorite country western singer, Don Davis. Other entertainment scheduled for the night includes Beck, and Little Eddie and the Fat Fingers. Ten-cent buffalo wings, $1 drafts and $10 barbecue dinners will be served under the bigtop.

Although the motel was remodeled in 1998, part of Buffalo Chips' charm is that little has changed over the last three decades. The mess of memorabilia helps tell the story of one of Bonita's oldest neighborhood hangouts.

Buffalo Chips features live music several nights a week. The restaurant celebrates 30 years in business this week.

Buffalo Chips features live music several nights a week. The restaurant celebrates 30 years in business this week.

One of the newer items in the collection is a golden shovel, awarded by Mayor Ben Nelson in 2005 when Al retired from his decades-long volunteer position as official horse poop scooper at the end of the Bonita Springs Fourth of July parade. Buffalo Chips workers continue to fill this necessary job each year.

Al Greenwood has always been community minded, as evidenced by his many board positions and service awards throughout the years. Most recently, he was honored as the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce's Ambassador Emeritus. Buffalo Chips received the Chamber's Small Business of the Year Award in 2004.

Greenwood also has served with the Community Redevelopment Association to revitalize the Old 41 corridor and is a past president of the Bonita Springs Lion's Club. Buffalo Chips has long served free meals at the citywide cleanup day and has fed Bonita's homeless and hungry through Cafe of Life. Al insisted on cooking free meals even during the lean years when the restaurant was struggling, Chip noted.

file photo (2)
Al Greenwood, owner of Buffalo Chips Restaurant in Bonita Springs, stands for a portrait in his restaurant.

Photo by Tristan Spinski

file photo (2) Al Greenwood, owner of Buffalo Chips Restaurant in Bonita Springs, stands for a portrait in his restaurant.

While Chip watches over the books, Al simply loves to be part of his community. He admits he failed to turn a profit for his first 12 years in business. He'd moved from Buffalo, N.Y., in 1982 to operate the small Empire Court Motel in Bonita Springs and decided to convert two apartments into a restaurant when he realized Buffalo's famous chicken wings were nowhere to be found in Bonita Springs.

His 10-cent Buffalo Wings were instantly popular, if not profitable. When Chip came on board to help out in 1990, he did the math and found his dad was losing five cents on every wing he sold. The price was slowly adjusted. "I wasn't dearly loved by some of the people at first," Chip joked.

Mayhood remembers those early days of 10-cent Buffalo wings, when Al Greenwood was struggling to get started.

"The owner would take your order, go in the back and cook it, and bring it out," Mayhood said of his longtime friend.

Don Davis performs "Pancho and Lefty", a Willie Nelson song, for guests in the dinning room at Buffalo Chips restaurant in Bonita Springs. "He plays Willie better than Willie," says Buffalo Chips owner Al Greenwood about Davis.

Photo by Tristan Spinski

Don Davis performs "Pancho and Lefty", a Willie Nelson song, for guests in the dinning room at Buffalo Chips restaurant in Bonita Springs. "He plays Willie better than Willie," says Buffalo Chips owner Al Greenwood about Davis.

It was a big deal when Buffalo Chips sold 1,000 wings in one day in the late 1980s. Now, the restaurant goes through up to 4,000 a day. That's more than two tons of wings a week during season, Chip Greenwood said. The restaurant's record is 16,482 wings sold in one day.

Wings come in 10 varies, with escalating degrees of heat. Mayhood's favorite are the "Death" wings, which never fail to bring on a good sweat.

When Al Greenwood opened Buffalo Chips, he aimed to create a neighborhood tavern, where friends and neighbors could relax together at the end of the day, and that is precisely what Buffalo Chips has become to the many locals who frequent it.

The regulars consider Buffalo Chips a place to unwind, as comfortable as a favorite old T-shirt.

"I love it here," said Eric Vazquez, who comes five to six times a week. "Everybody treats me like family. They remember your name and remember your drink. Everybody's welcome here."

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