After a night out on Sixth Street in 1991, two UT frat brothers, David Paul and Mark Greenberg, found themselves on an unsuccessful hunt for late-night wings. Four years later, they filled Austin’s chicken wing void with the first Pluckers restaurant. Now, 17 Pluckers scatter the South.
In honor of Pluckers’ 20th anniversary, Paul, Mark Greenberg and their co-founder Sean Greenberg are throwing a free party Saturday at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The party will kick off with a viewing of the UT vs. Notre Dame football game, followed by performances from indie rock bands Bleachers and Passion Pit. Ticket giveaways will be announced on the Pluckers Facebook page throughout the week leading up to the event.
“So much of our growth relates back to Austin, growing with the city and UT specifically,” Sean Greenberg said. “And how do we say thank you? For us, thank you involves [throwing] a big party.”
Paul and Mark Greenberg began sketching out the plans for Pluckers while finishing up their advertising degrees at UT. The pair grew up frequenting wing restaurants in Atlanta and New Orleans respectively, and used that prior knowledge when experimenting with the Pluckers menu. They tested recipes on friends and entered a local cook-off to find the perfect recipes.
Construction on their take-out and delivery wing restaurant began in the spring of Paul and Mark Greenberg’s senior year. Pluckers’ doors opened June 23, 1995, the day after they graduated.
“We didn’t know how to manage people,” Paul said. “We didn’t know how to create a schedule. We didn’t know how to do anything. We literally had to learn everything from the ground up.”
For the first two years, Paul said he and Mark Greenberg worked 100-hour weeks without ever seeing the front of the store. They were either cooking in the back or out making deliveries from open to close.
Sean Greenberg, who was still studying business at UT during the initial years the store was open, said he would often finish class and immediately head downtown with a stack of fliers or a list of deliveries.
“There is a central theme throughout [our story] of being young and not knowing any better,” Sean Greenberg said. “What you have is [three] people who were willing to work really hard and were very competitive. You figure stuff out. You do whatever it takes.”
Over time, the business gathered momentum and transitioned from one delivery and take-out only storefront to a successful sit-down restaurant chain. Paul said they refrained from doing interviews over the years because they did not want their success as a chain to take away from the small-town atmosphere of
“We want UT students to feel like [Pluckers] is their place and not a chain,” Paul said. “We want each store to feel like it’s a ‘mom and pop’ as much as possible.”
Sean Greenberg said the co-founders hope to continue expanding the Pluckers chain, as long as each new restaurant achieves the same college hangout vibe the original West Campus location maintains. He said they want to give the people what they want — a fun place to go.
“We have always run the company in what we believe to be an authentic way,” Sean Greenberg said. “We make jokes on the menu about how you don’t eat Pluckers when you’re healthy. You eat Pluckers when you’re hungover and want something that tastes awesome. We try not to take ourselves too seriously.”