The Family Business That Put Nashville Hot Chicken on the Map

The Family Business That Put Nashville Hot Chicken on the Map

Article originally published on NewYorker.com

Three days after Christmas, in a part of northeast Nashville that many locals describe as “dicey,” a Ford Explorer crashed through the front of a discount-tobacco shop at one end of a strip mall. Police later called the incident an attempted burglary. The vehicle, which had been reported stolen, was propelled by a brick weighting the accelerator. The store was empty—it was four-thirty in the morning. The authorities arrived to find the Ford abandoned and the shop on fire.

Two doors down, just past Jennifer Nails, Tyreese Lawless had come to work early, as usual, to clean the fryers at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. After hearing a boom, he got out of there, in case the flames reached the restaurant. Lawless began calling colleagues—to them, and to generations of customers, Prince’s is a kind of second home. Firefighters went inside and started yanking down ceiling tiles and singed insulation. Ducts and wiring lay exposed, and there was extensive damage from smoke and water. As a precaution, the fire department shut off the strip mall’s gas and electricity. Yellow police tape outside Prince’s front door stretched toward the shattered glass of the targeted bodega.

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