When you find your niche in life, don’t forget to keep it simple.
Simple is what sells for Bubby’s Chicken & Waffles – simple mixed with a authenticity, nostalgia, good vibes, and some Fruity Pebbles.
Owner Kareem Crossley has two main menu items as described in his company’s name that have quickly allowed him to gain popularity in the restaurant business and go from a food truck, to an indoor community kitchen, to now owning his own building in just over a year.
Selling the unique combination of chicken and the waffles that contain Fruity Pebbles, Crossley carted his product around to various spots in Springfield before taking up residence in his first brick and mortar location in the lower level of the Bushnell Building on Fountain Avenue.
He closed for a few months to remodel his new place is and now open for business at 1305 Lexington Ave., near Speakeasy Ramen. Bubby’s is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. You can call ahead to order at (937) 450-5332.
“I went from working out of the trunk of my car, carrying generators in the back, to going downtown and really building the business more and more,” says Crossley, who is from Springfield, but moved around a lot throughout his childhood because his mom was in the U.S. Army. His family moved back to Springfield when he was in the ninth grade, and he’s been here ever since.
“It was too cold to set up all the time outdoors, so I had to move inside. Unpacking and packing all the time got old as well, so I moved inside and the business really catapulted,” Crossley says. “I started doing Door Dash, the Bubby’s System Card, and basically was getting the business. It was time to get a building of my own.
“My dad and I came up with a plan, found a place, and put a lot of work into it. It’s small but effective and I’m finally getting the look I want for it now. I wanted to make sure I got everything going here and be prepared, especially if there is another shutdown because of COVID.”
His menu items originally came to mind back in 2015 when he and his friends used to make chicken and waffles at his home on Fountain Avenue. He always enjoyed the good times and good energy.
“We were trying to come up with ideas – figuring out what we could make that’s interesting and different – and that’s when we came up with putting Fruity Pebbles in waffles,” says Crossley, who is a big fan of nostalgia and plans to do car shows and other events that would add to the experience that is Bubby’s.
“When I was a kid, I’d get a pack of Fruity Pebbles. I remember the smell when you open up a bag – it just brings you back to your childhood,” he added. “I was trying to get my name out by doing something that would make my product pop out so I started putting them in the waffles. People started taking pictures and posting it – it was a good marketing tool. It’s a nostalgic experience – a fun vibe when you come here.”
A product of both South High School and the business management program at the Springfield Clark Career Technology Center (SCCTC), Crossley has a business mind and a great personality to go with it. He was an ambassador at SCCTC and acquired strong marketing skills while working for Zumiez, a hipster clothing store.
“I realize now that I did all this stuff for a reason; it has really been a good thing for me in the long run. I just didn’t know it at the time,” he says. “I’ve just always been up to something, I didn’t think I’d end up doing this though.
“I think it’s best to keep it simple – simple is effective. Like In-N-Out Burger – it’s simple, they kept it simple and I said to myself that I’m going to do it like that,” he added, referring to his business model. It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish. I started with a cart and a sink. I am thankful for all of those who have helped me along the way and let me set up at different spots around town.”
He is grateful to places like O’Conners Irish Pub, Jim’s Tire City, Game Cycle, the LIE Store and Coffee Expressions among other local businesses for letting him set up shop with his food truck. But Crossley had a vision and now it’s come to fruition.
“I finally got the building, now I want to start doing some other things with it,” he says. “It’s all about the culture, I think I bring that to Springfield. We have to bring the culture out, try stuff, go somewhere you’ve never been or experience something you’ve never done.
That love of culture is what continues to drive Crossley.
“That’s what Bubby’s is all about. If we can start setting examples we can make a difference out here. Other places have everything, so why not Springfield?” he says. “We need something different here. I’ve traveled since I was a little kid, so I’m good here, and I like the nostalgia. I want to bring a different experience to Springfield, bring authenticity to it – bring something positive to the table. I want to pay it back – we all need to help each other out. Here’s a shout out to all those who have helped me along the way.”