The last 10 years have been great to the "Wing King", Bob Dyer, and his wife Debbie, as their business, Dyer's Deli, has consistently been gaining popularity.The small building at 5739 West Lincoln Highway has seen many businesses come and go, but after an increasingly successful decade, it seems certain that Dyer's Deli is here to stay.
Bob said the first year the restaurant was open they sold 1,200 wings on Superbowl Sunday, which at the time they thought was unbelievable. "Now we do 10,000 wings for the Super-bowl and have to rent a walk-in box to store them," he said. "We can only accept pre-orders and they have to be picked up by appointment."
The supplier for Dyer's Deli's wings said the local restaurant went through 3,000 more wings than the top place in Philadelphia during last year's big game. "We could have sold more, but we were running out," Bob said.
"It's nothing to sell 1,600-1,700 wings during our Wednesday special," he said, which offers 10 free wings with the purchase of 20.
The wing menu features the Dyer's Cryers, known for their ability to make a grown man cry, which are smothered in a sauce made from six varieties of hot peppers, roasted and ground. "If you eat 10, you get your picture on the wall," Bob said.
Debbie said they got tired over the years of hearing people say, 'Oh, I can handle it', which inspired Bob to create a new sauce for wings they call "RIP".
The big seller on their wing menu, which includes four levels of hot, Bob said are the Italian-style. "They're to die for," he said, explaining that they are sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and Italian seasonings. "All of the restaurants try to copy it," Bob said, "but they can't get it right."
The menu also boasts the Italian Supreme, a hoagie made from Genoa salami, prosciutto, capicolla, and pepperoni, all imported from Italy. Dyer's Deli also sells a lot of two-foot subs, a popular choice for families.
Other menu items such as a variety of hot and cold hoagies, homemade pasta dishes, and specialty salads also pack the restaurant. "He's a great cook," Debbie said of her husband; "he can make a meal out of anything." The Dyers are known for their use of homemade ingredients. Bob makes everything from scratch from the pasta dough to the dipping sauces.
"I had that chipotle stuff on my menu way before Burger King and everyone else did," Bob laughed. He serves it on a chicken tender wrap with chopped bacon.
"And I swear," he continued, "a Wawa manager came in here and had it one day and the next thing I knew, they were advertising their own!"
Bob and Debbie Dyer said goodbye to their respective occupations as a maintenance mechanic and a lab technician when they opened the restaurant in June of 1998 and they haven't looked back since.
"I've always cooked," Bob said. Growing up in a house with four women, it was easy for him to learn his way around a kitchen. "Every family event we've had has always been at my house and everyone used to say, 'Bob, you really oughta have your own place!'"
When one of their favorite restaurants, LGM in Coatesville, the Dyers' hometown, began having financial problems, Bob suggested that they make Friday nights "Wing Night". He offered to cook wings for the restaurant for free and within a couple of weeks, Bob said the place was packed every Friday night.
Eventually, Debbie joined in on encouraging Bob to open up his own place. "So I said, 'let's do it!'," Bob said.
Years ago, the Dyers said their current location was the place to go in the area; it had a jukebox, pool tables, and video games. It was only open in the summer and served hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream.
"After that closed, no one lasted over a year," Bob said of past owners of the building. "I was told I was crazy when I bought it, but I just knew it would work."
It began as a family business and the Dyers say that is what it will remain. Even though a couple of their employees are not immediate family, they are considered to be.
The Dyers said working together at first was very shaky, as it's hard for a husband and wife to be together 24 hours a day. "Now we work really well together," Bob said. "During a rush, we can get food out at an amazing speed!"
Their daughter Erica helped to open the restaurant and now her husband, Jamie Lundmark, a professional hockey player for the Calgary Flames, is known as the #1 chef. "He really brings in a crowd when he's in the kitchen," Bob said. The Lundmarks' two-year-old son Austin also helps out when he comes to visit grandma and grandpa.
The Dyers' son, Bobbie, also works in the restaurant with their soon-to-be daughter-in-law Elaine. Bobbie has been working in the restaurant since it opened when he was only in seventh grade.
"He's my number one guy," Bob said. "Our son could pretty much run the whole place." Bobbie works fulltime for Coca Cola, which, of course, the restaurant carries.
Bob said the tremendous growth in the area over the last 10 years has been hard to keep up with. "We were scared at first with the Wal-Mart shopping center coming in, but it actually doubled our business," Bob said. "We don't worry anymore when new restaurants open in the area because we know it will help us by bringing people into the area."
"We know everybody who comes in here, most of them by their first name," Debbie said. "Most of us even know what they want to drink when they walk in the door."
Debbie admitted to being known for 'snatching up babies' when they come through the door. The parents never seem to mind because it gives them a chance to eat in peace.
"We're one of those old mom and pop places that are hard to find now," said Bob. "We have a lot of fun here."
The Dyers pride themselves for their willingness to support the local firehouses, as well as needful cancer patients and their families. "Even during times that we really can't afford it," Bob said, "we always try to squeeze something out for anyone who needs help.
"We've lost a lot of good people here to cancer," Bob said, remembering patrons who have passed. "We lost our number one helper, Bob Newnam (who passed away in 2002 from cancer)." Bob said Newnam used to pick up their son from school everyday to bring him into the restaurant. He also did all of the banking and a lot of entertaining for the restaurant.
The newest item to grace the Dyers Deli menu was added last Friday, a cheesesteak club sandwich, which is just as it sounds, sauteed steak with bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and mayo served between three slices of toasted white bread.
"I just put it together one day, made it for everyone, and it was a hit," Bob said. "I ate two in one day, it's unbelievable! I think it will put me on the map."