Early on a chilly Saturday morning in February, I found myself jumping in my car at 5 a.m. to travel six hours to Nashville, Tenn. to meet a food truck owner. Earlier that week, a friend tagged me in a news article on Facebook about a man named Terry Key who started a bike club to keep the youth in the Edgehill community off the streets and was now seeking donations to remodel an old food truck. I was more interested in the story behind the truck and wanted to meet him.
When I arrived in Nashville, I found out my interview would be a two-for-one special for me due to the reuniting of two long-time friends. As I pulled into the driveway, I initially mistook a sizeable red truck for an ambulance before realizing it was an ambulance-turned-food truck. Kat & Pat’s Lip Smackin’ Creations Food Medic is owned by Patrick Lanier, a friend of Key. Key was outside with contractors figuring out what steps were needed to get his truck — an old funnel cake truck — on the road and in service to children. When we sat down to talk, I learned that both Key and Lanier had more in common than just the food truck business and their friendship. Both men are committed to being role models for children and helping them maximize their full potential.
Making the Right Decisions
When I asked Key what made him interested in a food truck as an addition to his bike club, he chuckled. Before Edgehill Bike Club ever existed, there was Drop It Like It’s Hot Wings. Drop It Like It’s Hot Wings was birthed after about many years of self-discovery and redefinition. As a teen, Key and some of his peers sold drugs not knowing how severe the consequences could be. When he realized this could possibly get him locked away behind bars forever, he knew had to change and began his journey towards turning his life around. It took nearly 20 years, but over that period, he began applying for jobs and enrolled in a business course. It was in that course that Key’s instructor told him that the same skills he learned in the streets could be applied positively to his own business.
He started his first business and although it failed, he told himself that if he ever started another business, he would never give up on his dream. While in corporate America he began studying the company, saving and investing in himself. When the company started to shut down, Key used his savings and his entire 401k to start a business. He and his wife Kim decided that the name would be Drop It Like It’s Hot Wings in 2010. The home-based eatery was met with much success, with lines extending all the way down Key’s driveway as people came to get their fingers drenched in his signature sauce and bite down into juicy, tender wings.
Before Sunshine Comes the Rain
Right as things were going well for the Keys and their new business, Nashville was flooded a few months later, causing the couple to lose everything including all of the equipment used to operate their business. The family found themselves homeless for almost a year. They eventually find a place housing projects in the Edgehill community. Forced to rebuild, Key returned to cooking, making his wings for the neighborhood children and taking the opportunity to perfect his sauces. It was a hit. The family eventually joined a local church that would allow them to use the church facility to make and distribute the wings for free to the community.
While he was in Edgehill, Key observed that the children in the neighborhood were riding bicycles that were in desperate need of repair. Next to cooking, bicycles were his biggest passion. Asking the church for space to fix bicycles for any child that came by, he soon found himself as the go-to bike repairman in the community. It was not long until Key was fixing bikes and leading the children on bike rides throughout the city, exposing the youth to different neighborhoods. The Edgehill Bike Club was born. Key has since given away over 2,000 bikes in five years and helped put four students through college thanks to the club. “I want to see these kids go to college. I want to see them make it,” Key says.
Key is not done with Drop It Like It’s Hot Wings. Now that his family is back in a home and a few more things have settled, Key is ready to bring back his signature wings and plans to do so in a food truck. His goal is to hire and train teens to work the truck and serve the Edgehill community to give them business skills, income, mentorship, and the opportunity to become mentors to their peers. He has a long way to go until the truck is suitable for work, but Key is up to the challenge and is putting in the work to get it ready. He is also asking for donations. For Key, the food truck will be a game changer in the Edgehill community.
“We got a food trailer that we’re trying to get built up, fixed up, so we can give these kids in the neighborhood a job…so we can teach these kids in the rough neighborhood about entrepreneurship,” shares Key. We are going to give at least four kids a job this summer on a food trailer so they can make their own money, have their own money to go to school and buy whatever they want to buy. But we’re just trying to get them out the street and save some lives.
In addition, Key has expressed his desire for local officials to become invested in the city’s youth. He urges them to come into the community, meet the kids and their families and even extend an invitation for them to join in on a bike ride with the kids. Key says that the best part about investing time into the neighborhood youth is, “I get to see their talent because when they are with me, they just get to be a kid and not be worried about peer pressure or anything else they have to deal with every day.”
Another Food Truck Hero Emerges
Key is also partnering with friend Patrick Lanier to visit schools of all grade levels across the city for career days and other events to expose the youth to entrepreneurship and the culinary industry through a food truck.
Lanier and Key share a few similarities. Lanier is the co-owner of Lip Smackin’ Creations Food Medic food truck with his wife; a fitting name given his story. Always wanting to make children smile, Lanier he would take money from his illegal activities to throw cookouts for the children in the area. At the end of his 14-year sentence in federal prison, Lanier received news that his younger brother Ricardo was killed. At that moment, he knew that not only was he turning his life around, but he was going into overdrive to keep his brother’s memory alive by making a difference. He did not want any child, teen, or young adult not to have the support, love, and mentorship they needed.
Lanier and his wife started their food truck and began visiting schools across Nashville for career day with the promise that if students saw the truck on the street, they are would receive a free entrée that included fries and drink of their choice. One of the entrées, The Cardo Chicken Wrap, honors the legacy of Lanier’s brother Ricardo Darnell Lanier Johnson.
“In the midst of trying to heal from that, I asked God, ‘Give me something. Give something that I can give back to save kids from leaving their older brother, older sister, their mother, their father, their family period…from leaving the earth.’ And so at that time it was like pour yourself, pour yourself into them. Pour yourself and show them that you have a heart to listen, to guide, and teach and show them that you are always there for them.”
If you would like to support Terry Key and the Edgehill Bike Club in their efforts to get Drop It Like It’s Hot Wings Food Truck up and running, please visit www.edgehillbikeclub.org. If you would like to support Patrick Lanier or contact him you may reach him via email at email@example.com.
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