Jennifer Stephens started working at Ezell's Famous Chicken when she was 12 years old. Her cousin, Phylicia Davidson, started in the ninth grade—she needed shoes for basketball. In 2001 the two found themselves operating the same storefront in Skyway. There they'd hatch plans that are just now—after years at Microsoft and in mortgage banking and litigation law—taking shape in the form of Ezell's Express.
Ezell's Express is a fleet of food trucks inspired by the namesake chainlet, now in operation for nearly three decades. In April Stephens and Davidson will debut their first outfit. After six months they plan to introduce others locally then launch further afield—possibly California and Oregon initially, and then in Texas. They're franchising, just in a mobile capacity.
"Ezell's is a product the whole world needs to know about," says Stephens, and soon it will.
Lewis Rudd, Davidson's father and Stephens's uncle and an Ezell's cofounder, is embarking on another franchising campaign, this one multinational (and via brick-and-mortars). When asked if a year ago he thought his famed fried chicken would be going global, he gleefully answered in the affirmative—ambition runs in their blood.
More than just a brand builder, Ezell's Express represents a new generation steering the family business in a new direction. "There's so much we can do with a food truck," says Davidson. "The independence is amazing." The duo talks of taking their trucks to festivals, fairs, and sporting events throughout Puget Sound in addition to various neighborhoods and community causes. Input from the community will be a big factor in deciding where and when they serve (Thoughts? Tweet away.) but they do know they want trucks operating seven days a week.
There's a motto at Ezell's: fast, good, fresh. Davidson and Stephens plan to deliver on that, especially the fresh part. Chicken will come straight out of the fryer, an experience patrons currently miss out on. The pared-down menu will mimic those of the brick-and-mortars, except the rolls are mini versions of the restaurants'. The handmade buns should prove a particularly tasty way to "soak things up at 2am" when the trucks make their late-night appearances, says Stephens.
And just how will these trucks look? The design is under wraps for now.