Penny Wickes credits her early years growing up in a small town with helping to instill her strong work ethic and a willingness to listen to and learn from her elders. When Penny and Mike Wickes started their first business many years ago in Tennessee, there was a group of older businessmen who mentored young entrepreneurs because they knew thriving businesses were crucial for the success of the community as a whole.
After Mike and Penny brought their manufacturing business back to Hagerstown, well-known Hagerstown resident Bob Beeson provided similar mentoring, Hoosier style. The message of these business predecessors was not lost on them. When Welliver’s Restaurant closed, the Wickes knew the ramifications would extend far beyond the building and the staff. Penny states, “We were plenty busy with our other business. We didn’t open Willie and Red’s for us. We opened the restaurant for the good of the town.”
When they took the leap into restaurant ownership, the plan for phase one of the project was to do whatever was necessary to get the restaurant open. That meant an overhaul from top to bottom, including a new roof and ceiling, all new wiring, new floors, new kitchen equipment, and new restrooms.
An outside view of the bar at Willie & Reds.Now plans are moving forward into phase two, focusing on the west side of the building. As this phase develops, they will consider the possibility of reinstating some form of the smorgasbord, but that will require first installing a second kitchen. Presently they host occasional large group parties, with an in-room buffet, in the west room or across the street in another of their community projects, The Meeting Place.
The Willie and Red’s menu has changed very little from the previous Welliver’s menu, with the main difference being the addition of some of the former smorgasbord favorites as side items. However, it’s important to the Wickes that Willie and Red’s offers meals at a variety of price points to provide something for everyone from young families to retirees. Specials include Italian fare, a result of the expertise of their kitchen manager, and 2 for $20 specials on Thursdays and Sundays.
Current dining hours at Willie and Red’s are Thursdays 4:00-8:00, Fridays and Saturdays 4:00-10:00, and Sundays noon until 8:00. Reservations are accepted for groups larger than 15 people.
Penny and Mike Wickes walk the talk of their commitment to community, receiving a high level of support from grateful area residents. Penny notes, “People we have never known before have come up to us to thank us and to tell us how important Willie and Red’s is for the community.”
When asked what makes her proud to be a Hagerstown business owner, Penny Wickes says she’s most proud of being in a position to provide jobs for other people and to offer guidance to help them overcome obstacles and build a future. Clearly, Mike and Penny Wickes learned well the lessons of the elders and they are paying them forward to help ensure that Hagerstown’s heart beats strong far into the future.