Ezell knows not to tamper with perfection when it comes to chicken in Renton

After a legal battle with his former company, Ezell Stephens, co-founder of Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken, is starting over with a new business venture in Renton. Stephens held the soft-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Heaven Sent Fried Chicken Nov. 10 at its location downtown on Third Street.

Ezell Stephens serves up fried chicken and sides at the soft-opening of his new business venture Heaven Sent Fried Chicken in downtown Renton. The grand opening was Wednesday

After a legal battle with his former company, Ezell Stephens, co-founder of Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken, is starting over with a new business venture in Renton.

Stephens held the soft-opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Heaven Sent Fried Chicken Nov. 10 at its location downtown on Third Street.

It is the first original establishment to open under the Heaven Sent name. Stephens’ other locations in Everett and Lake City were previously Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken locations.

Stephens arrived at a settlement with his former company this year in which he had to change the name of the restaurants he opened in Everett and Lake City, but both he and Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken could use the same recipe.

Stephens said he’s thrilled with the outcome of the settlement.

“This is the first (restaurant) to come under the name with no change; it’s born as Heaven Sent,” he said. “So that makes it real special.”

Stephens calls Heaven Sent a new beginning, saying that the Ezell’s journey is a done deal.

Today, at age 58, Stephens said he is finally doing what he was born to do.

“It’s really good to be doing what I’m doing and reaping from my work,” he said. “I never experienced this before since I’ve been in business.”

Stephens founded the Ezell’s chain in 1984 with his then-wife Faye Rudd, her brother, Lewis Rudd, and Stephens’ brother Sam.

When asked if the Heaven Sent recipe differs or is an improvement on the Ezell’s recipe, Stephens had this to say:

“Well, I’m Ezell, so why would I mess with perfection? Why would I mess with greatness? Why would I tamper with it?”

It is that family recipe, the basis for his original company, that caught the interest of Oprah Winfrey, who proclaimed the chicken one of her favorites. This catapulted Ezell’s to fame in the region.

But, does Heaven Sent Fried Chicken stand up?

“Oh yeah, it’s real good,” said Ronnie Beltran, commenting on how the pieces are big and juicy just like he remembered them.

Beltran has been eating Stephens’ chicken for 20 years, he said.

“The first time I met him was at the U-District when he had one of his restaurants there,” Beltran said. “Ate there almost every day, so I wanted to come by and just say hi to him.”

Many people turned out to wish Stephens well at the ribbon-cutting. Some were audibly eager to try the chicken, rolls and peach cobbler he served up.

The menu for the small, take-and-go restaurant features the famous chicken in spicy and original, bread pudding, sweet potato pie, mash potatoes and gravy and coleslaw as the highlights.

Stephens has about 17 people on staff now, but says he knows not everyone is heaven sent. So, he expects that some of his staff aren’t in it for the long haul.

“You get more than a job when you work at Heaven Sent,” Stephens said. “It’s about changing lives, becoming a better person. Not just about making chicken and selling chicken.”

Stephens says he’s a very positive person; he thinks that life is simple, but people complicate it by not being fair or honest.

“They want things out of life without putting in time for it,” Stephens said. “And if you’re around me, I can tell you my everyday life is to teach by example.”

He doesn’t try and tell his employees first how to change their lives, he shows them, he said.

Stephens counts each one of his employees as special people and said that his business is heaven sent.

His former business partners are free to go their own way and he his way, he said.

“I’m free to fly, just like the birds,” Stephens said.


Heaven Sent Fried Chicken

509 S. Third St. in Renton

Hours: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday

425-917-3000

 

More in Business

From preliminary plans for the new Topgolf location in Renton, courtesy of the city.
Topgolf to bring high-tech driving range to Renton

Construction is expected to be complete in 2021, according to the land-use notice.

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe to develop luxury hotel at Auburn casino

Opening in 2021, dynamic resort experience to meet guest demand, the tribe says

Lawmakers need to re-examine budget before adjourning

Before lawmakers wrap-up their work in Olympia, they should re-examine their hefty… Continue reading

Inconvenient truth about batteries

Each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries constituting 180,000… Continue reading

Darker side of renewables

Before our country, in haste, dives totally into renewable energy, we must… Continue reading

Oil companies betting on electric technology

Across the pond, London-based BP and Netherlands-headquartered Shell are looking to invest… Continue reading

Trade issues coalesce Washington’s delegation

Historically, international trade issues have galvanized our state’s congressional delegation. Many wondered… Continue reading

Henry Beleford displays photos of current high school students have come through his shop to get their letterman jackets. Beleford said once they graduate, he takes their photos down. Photo by Sarah Brenden
Local shop owner helps students show school spirit

What started out as a part-time gig has turned full time for… Continue reading

Microsoft has expanded their AccountGuard service to 12 new European Countries. Yellow: European countries already protected. Blue: European countries now protected. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Microsoft warns of hacking ahead of elections

Launching defense services in Europe.

The Heaven Sent location in downtown Renton closed its doors after eight years. Photo by Haley Ausbun
Heaven Sent leaves Renton

Heaven Sent Fried Chicken closed its doors Feb. 23. Owner says he’s focusing on Everett store and a gluten-free menu

Praerit Garg joins Smartsheet as CTO

Bellevue-based company employs 760 people

OfferUp founder Nick Huzar makes customer safety a core pillar

Bellevue-based CEO wanted a simpler solution to his own problems