In the late 2000s, Antoine Wiley faced a crossroads in life. He witnessed the success his sister, Felicia Wiley, was finding running her own restaurant and decided he wanted to make a go of replicating her success in Milledgeville.
“I said, ‘Do you mind if I open one of these?’” said Wiley.
In 2009, AJ’s Hot Wings & More was born, thus marking the beginning of a successful and ongoing venture as a business owner for Wiley.
Wiley came to Milledgeville to attend Georgia College after his time serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He took a job at Central State Hospital, but when the hospital began shutting down, he knew he needed to find a new path. That is when he contacted his sister about replicating her already-established menu at a restaurant of his own.
“I took her menu and we kind of changed the name on it, but didn’t change any items,” said Wiley.
Wiley named his restaurant after his son, Antoine Jr., who was 5 years old at the time. While the location in a strip center sitting perpendicular to North Columbia Street proved challenging at first, soon enough, customers were hooked by the tasty menu items and word started spreading.
“Through word of mouth and really good customers, Milledgeville helped us; we made it,” said Wiley.
About a year and a half after opening the original store, Wiley learned of a building that was becoming available across town. He reached out to the owner, leased the location, and AJ’s To-Go opened on South Elbert Street near the Georgia Military College campus. Another expansion briefly took the AJ’s menu to Gray, but while that particular location did not quite fit the brand’s footprint, Wiley soon found a location in Gordon and opened AJ’s Hot Wings there five years ago. Today, all three locations are going strong.
AJ’s Hot Wings & More now has an established reputation across the area for its popular menu items, including wings, burgers, chicken strips, steak burgers, seafood, hot dogs and more.
“Of course, our specialty here is wings,” said Wiley. “We’ve got all homemade sauces, all creations of my mom and my sister.”
With 11 sauces on the menu, customers are able to find the right flavor to suit their tastes. In addition to mild, hot and extra hot sauces, customers can choose from such options as lemon pepper, teriyaki, honey BBQ and garlic parmesan.
When it comes to burgers at AJ’s, Wiley said they avoid shortcuts in favor of quality.
“We don’t use a frozen burger patty; we use fresh ground chuck,” said Wiley.
All sandwiches are served with a choice of a side dish. In addition to burgers, AJ’s sells sandwiches such as grilled chicken, country fried steak, Philly cheesesteak, turkey burgers and more. Regular sides include crinkle cut fries, homestyle chips and coleslaw, and for a small upcharge, premium sides such as buffalo fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, fried okra and corn nuggets are available.
The AJ’s menu also offers fish, shrimp, salads, wraps, boneless chicken strips and hot dogs. A kids’ menu is available, and delivery is offered through both DoorDash and KNG Delivery.
AJ’s Hot Wings & More also offers catering services for a variety of events. Wiley continues to work with his sister, who now owns Felicia’s Hot Wings & More locations in both Wrightsville and Wrens, and their mother on perfecting recipes to add to the catering options. He said the AJ’s staff can work with customers to create customized catering menus that will meet the needs of their particular events.
With all of the food he sells, Wiley insists on quality preparation that replicates that homemade feel. He also works with staff to ensure that quality standards of food preparation and service are consistent at every AJ’s location.
“We just try to cook it good, cook it like you would have it at home,” said Wiley.
Wiley’s success is undeniable when looking at how his business footprint has expanded. In addition to the three AJ’s locations, Wiley opened Good Eats Healthy Living in Lithonia early in 2020. Wiley also owns a commercial construction company that does work throughout the eastern United States, and he recently started a local taxi service in Milledgeville. Wiley has trained a network of managers and employees who help him deliver quality service throughout all of his business ventures.
As for his success with his original business at AJ’s, he is grateful to give his customers a quality product, provide jobs for his staff and give back to the community in any way he can.
“I think food makes people happy. I like to make people happy, and to be able to give some people some decent jobs,” said Wiley.
He strives to make sure AJ’s Hot Wings & More provides a family-friendly environment that welcomes everyone.
“The elderly, the college kids and everyone in between; we love everybody,” said Wiley. “Customer service is really big with me. I want everybody to be treated the same when they come here.”
Wiley says he is grateful to the community for all the support that his gotten him to where he is today.
“I’d like to let Milledgeville know that I thank them for the 11, almost 12 years of business,” said Wiley. “We love serving them.”
AJ’s Hot Wings & More
2601 N. Columbia St., Milledgeville
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am to 10pm
Other AJ’s Locations: 400 S. Elbert St., Milledgeville & 185 Milledgeville Highway, Gordon