Shawn Parker ’09 is Ruling the RoostPublished Wednesday, April 01st, 2020
Shawn Parker, Class of 2009, shares his story.
In the fall of 2015 Shawn and his brother, Kari Parker were driving around Baltimore looking for something to eat. “After realizing that we exhausted all of our usual options, we thought, “Why not just start our own?”” said Shawn. They started Connie’s Chicken and Waffles. “We started the restaurant because we wanted to provide a place we could show love similar to the love our mom provided for our family.” Shawn named his restaurants after mother. “Her name is Connie, but she is affectionally known as Ms. Connie. My mother worked for over 40 years at BGE. As a tribute to her hard work and her dedication to keeping our family together, we decided to name the business after her,” he said.
The brothers thought the combination of chicken and waffles would be a good food option to bring to Baltimore’s emerging food scene. “Our most popular item is the Crunch Berry Chicken and Waffle. We infuse our buttermilk waffle with Captain Crunch cereal and pair it with our fresh, never frozen, hand-breaded and seasoned chicken breast tenders.” There are currently four Chicken and Waffles locations: Lexington Market, Charles Plaza, DECO and Broadway Market. Lexington Market was the first location. It was launched in June 2016.
But after receiving numerous requests from customers to provide extended hours, the young entrepreneurs opened an additional location in Charles Plaza, October 2017. “We then took the leap and set up in Wilmington, Delaware at a project called DECO in April 2019. We circled back and opened our most recent location at Broadway Market in June 2019.” In addition to the four permanent locations Shawn has participated in several pop-ups to include Under Armor, Rhouse, JPMorgan Chase and Patapsco Market. “We also participated in Baltimore’s Artscape, Afram, Seafood Festival, and Broccoli Fest in DC.” Shawn and Kari are also part of the Coppin Heights Project, The Walbrook Mill. In addition to having a Chicken and Waffles location in the food hall of the Mill, Shawn and Kari are consultants during the pre-construction. “We are recruiting vendors, working with the architect to design the stalls and participating in community meetings.” Once the space is opened they will manage the day-to-day operations.
Shawn recalls his days at Coppin fondly. His advice for present-day students, “Build as many relationships as possible with both students and faculty. Learn all you can. Take advantage of any opportunity to travel, whether its studying abroad, weekend road trips or even taking classes at a neighboring university. Seek internships at both small and large companies. You can learn a lot by talking to people you meet along the way. And, have a plan but don’t be afraid to deviate from that plan.”
What’s next for alumna Shawn Parker? “Ultimately, we would like to have a Connie’s in every major city across the U.S. We want to increase our consulting efforts to assist in opening other food halls; and train aspiring entrepreneurs on how to start their own restaurant.”