From small-time startup to international success story, Steamboat's Wing-Time sold to another company

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— It was a lack of responsibilities that helped Terry Brown launch Wing-Time Buffalo Wing Sauces 19 years ago.

Now, it’s the abundance of those life responsibilities that told Brown and his wife, Denise, it was time to sell.

The couple closed on the sale of their business last week to Massachusetts-based Panorama Foods Inc.

“Our numbers in the industry were strong,” Terry Brown said. “In business they look at sales growth. We’ve always been strong or above the industry average. We were well positioned for acquisition.”

Not bad for a guy who found a love for Buffalo sauce and wings at Taverns in Utica, N.Y. , during his college years and used his keen business sense to turn it into a heck of a career.

The Browns moved their business’ administrative operations from California to Steamboat in 2005 as part of an effort to get to a place they actually wanted to live. In recent years, as the hours didn’t let up and the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Ellie, was sprouting up, priorities and responsibilities started to shift.

The couple started thinking about selling the business at the beginning of 2012. The deal started to come in place near October before things finally went through last week.

“The reality hasn’t set in,” Terry Brown said. “It will set in when all the inventory is gone.”

Terry Brown started the business in 1993 out of his one-bedroom apartment. After graduating from the University of Utah, he spent a couple years in the corporate world, the whole time having the wing sauce business plan in mind.

Finally, he decided it was time. He spent 100-plus hours a week growing the business. He worked day and night marketing it to small restaurants and retail shops. On the weekends, he traveled to places to give samples.

He was smart about it and grew it responsibly. It wasn’t always about getting the sauce to the biggest distributor, but growing a base locally and then expanding.

Five years in, Wing-Time had national brand recognition.

The sauces are now shipped to all 50 states as well as to countries across the globe. The company ships 40 tons of sauce a month.

Terry Brown isn’t sure what is next. He will stay on with the company for a bit to make sure the transition is smooth.

He has other ideas, but acknowledges he doesn’t want to start another business that requires him to work at least 60 hours a week.

He will continue to consult businesses and, specifically, start-ups in the food industry. He wants to become even more active in the community and said he will continue coaching with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

He isn’t retired, though. He doesn’t like the word.

“I’m quasi-retired,” he said. “My wife said, ‘You’re not going to sit around and get bored, because you’re going to drive me nuts.’”

The Browns plan to continue to live in Steamboat, preparing Ellie for fourth grade and finally taking advantage of everything the town has to offer.

It was a bittersweet transaction for Terry Brown. He saw his startup go from a one-bedroom apartment setup to an international company.

“This has been like a second child,” he said. “All my friends and colleagues called me the ‘Wingman.’ Now they’re like, ‘What do we call you?’ I said, ‘I don’t care. You can call me whatever you want.’”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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