Still hanging out in bars after all these years…
Jan Scholer was a 13 year old science prodigy when he and his family immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands. The budding scientist graduated from Richmond Academy at 15 and Augusta College at 18. By age 22 Jan graduated with his doctorate in Reproductive Endocrinology from MCG.
Before settling back down in his adopted hometown of Augusta, Jan completed a Neuroendocrinology fellowship in Rochester, New York, followed by a stint in academia at the LSU Medical School.
Upon his return to Augusta in the mid eighties, Scholer worked on Georgia’s first ever test tube baby.
“I had a bunch of hamsters in my garage, and I would inject them with different drugs and hormones to see if I could make them ovulate. I’d harvest the eggs, put them in my media to see if they lived.”
With the success of the test tube baby program behind him, Scholer focused on his laboratory business, working in his chosen field for decades.
During this time, the scientist becomes a general aviation pilot, indulges in his interests of boating, hunting, fishing, motorcycle riding, and is currently a fourth degree black belt, teaching classes at the YMCA-with his grandkids in attendance.
We haven’t mentioned Squeaky’s Tip Top yet.
That’s where, as a 19 year old on a blind date, he meets his wife. She is a bubbly and happy 18 year old college student living with her grandmother, the oldest of seven kids. She remembers being impressed by the budding scientist. “He was cute.”
They were married within the year, and this wife of his brings him joy to this day.
Tricie and Jan had four children. The eldest, Ian, became a veterinarian. Daughter Caroline became a critical care nurse and sons Daniel and Will followed their father into the restaurant industry.
Oh, that’s right. So, we failed to mention another endeavour the scientist picked up along the way. Back in the fall of 2002, their third born, Daniel, began the Citadel. Being the good parents they are, they would visit as often as they could, and it was on these visits a new chapter in their lives unfolded.
They would meet at the Wild Wing Cafe in downtown Charleston.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Daniel remembers it this way.
“On I think their last trip to Charleston to visit, mom floated the idea of opening a Wild Wing in Augusta. I was like ‘yeah, whatever’. I didn’t pay any attention to it.”
A few months later when mom called to share the news they had signed the papers and were opening a Wild Wing on Washington Road, Daniel had received news from the Citadel as well.
The leadership at the Citadel had floated the idea that Daniel take a year off from higher book learning.
“I got in trouble for a hazing incident. It was one of those things where I broke the rules…and it just happened to be something they were trying to crack down on, so they made an example out of a couple of people. I was one of those people.”
The scientist and his wife, with zero restaurant experience, opened the 9,600 square foot wing and live music emporium on Washington Road in 2004 in the former Oldenberg Grill location.
With over 100 employees on opening day, the restaurant was not a small venture. Daniel worked there from the beginning. “I bussed tables, bar backed, whatever needed doing.”
He was joined by the youngest of the four kids Will, who was still in high school. The eldest of the four kids, the vet, joined in on the weekends, as well as sis the critical care nurse.
So, if you walked in Wild Wing in those early days, chances are a Scholer cleaned off your table, cooked your chicken or sat you. It was truly a family affair.
For Daniel and Will, it became their careers. When Will graduated high school, he went off to culinary school at Johnston and Wales, then entered the high end restaurant industry.
Meanwhile, Daniel learned the business from the ground up, beginning as a bar back in his early twenties and working his way through each position. After working in a few classy joints, Will accepted a position at Wild Wing corporate, floating between stores.
Carrying on the Scholer family tradition of finding love over a basket of chicken wings, both Daniel and Will met their future wives at Wild Wing Cafes. Will met his wife Candice while he was working at the Wild Wing in Savannah, who was tending bar while attending the Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah and Daniel met his wife Rebecca behind the hostess stand here in Augusta.
After Will moved back home to Augusta, he joined the family Wild Wing, taking over the kitchen allowing Daniel to focus on the rest of the business. “I’m happy in the kitchen. That’s what I love,” Will said.
Tricie and Jan Scholer have been successful restaurateurs ever since.
The Wild Wing Cafe
When the Scholers located the location for the first Wild Wing, they had every intention of selling off a large part of the enormous parking lot. Good thing they didn’t as it is often full, especially during the Masters.
During this time, the Scholers took over two other poorly performing locations in Athens and Columbia, yet were unable to turn them around. This lesson, along with the addition of the patio area facing Washington Road, seem to have been invaluable learning experiences.
With their own restaurant, they had to retrofit an existing building. With Athens and Columbia, while the college town locations were great, each had challenges that were insurmountable.
And with the patio installation and opening four years ago, they realized there was much more demand for Wild Wing than they had realized.
What if they were able to design and build their very own building? The idea began forming into an actionable idea when Daniel took over as General Manager and Will took over the AGM role.
With the restaurant in the very capable hands of their two youngest sons, they began scouting for locations. The process didn’t take long. They knew they needed to be by the interstate, and all the growth was centered on the Grovetown Harlem area.
The couple located the plot of land they wanted, next door to a mammoth new Kroger on Lewiston Road in Grovetown, just off I-20.
With the speed and efficiency they have exhibited their whole lives, the Scholers purchased the land, designed the restaurant and were building within six months.
Wild Wing Grovetown opened in July of this year. The newest restaurant is a little smaller than the mother ship on Washington Road, but Daniel was thrilled to design into the building little things that he wished he could have had the past fifteen years in Augusta.
Little things like fixing the design flaw that forces beer delivery guys to roll kegs through the front of the restaurant where customers are.
In Grovetown, they solved this problem by making the walk-in coolers, larger than some studio apartments on Broad Street, accessible from outside. The Perlick draft system keeps the kegs foam free, eliminates waste and offers an ice cold pour with a perfect head every time.
The stage for live music is beside the bar, with great sightlines throughout the restaurant. And let’s not forget the reason for the season…the kitchen. It is big.
When asked the main differences between Grovetown’s kitchen and Augusta’s on a recent afternoon before the restaurant had its grand opening, Daniel didn’t hesitate. “This one’s clean.”
And by clean he meant…new. When you serve over a million birds a year (they do!) the kitchens take a pounding. The shiny new stainless steel walls and empty fryers were no doubt ruined within hours of opening, when 20 or so staff furiously worked to keep up the pace.
Daniel smiled. “It’s on now.”