Xavier Morris, along with his sister Helen Morris and other family members, will open Billy Boys Wings, Burgers and BBQ at 2317 E. Broad Ave.
ALBANY -- There's never been any doubt that Xavier Morris is one of the area's top wing chefs. He's won awards for his special recipes and he has a following that stretches from Albany's south side to the west side and all points between.
But by his own admission, Morris is not much of a businessman. And that's always held him back.
In the next few days, Morris -- known in the community simply as "Zay" -- and mostly members of his immediate and extended family will open Billy Boy's Wings, Burgers & BBQ at 2317 E. Broad Ave. The restaurant will offer the food items for which Morris is best known: more than 50 kinds of wings, grilled burgers, smoked barbecue, sister Helen's uniquely prepared baked beans and 85-year-old mother Corine's "world famous" cream-cheese brownies that are so good neighborhood foodies compare them to an addictive substance that's not on anyone's menu.
The opening of Billy Boy's will be a dream-come-true for Morris. And it will be the fulfillment of a promise he made to his late brother, Billy, shortly before he died. But it will also be perhaps a last chance for Xavier Morris to achieve what he feels is his destiny.
"I've tried before, but honestly I just did not have the business experience to do what needed to be done," Morris said, adding he almost gave up on the idea. "I'd been through so much, and we just never were able to make things work.
"But I have my sister (Dee Cosby) on board now to run the finances and she's going to take care of the business side of things. I'm going to be free to do what I do best, which is cook."
Cosby is manager of a Southeastern Federal Credit Union branch in Valdosta. She said her belief in her brother's culinary skills enticed her to put her money and her business expertise into Billy Boy's.
"I admit I had some apprehension at first because of the current market," Cosby said. "But the Lord has allowed my heart to open up and has shown me that this is something I can do for and with my family. My brother definitely has the talent when it comes to cooking and I'm excited to help him realize this dream he has."
Xavier Morris opened Extreme Wings in south Albany in 2008, but that enterprise eventually failed. Before it did, though, Morris moved it to locations on Newton Road, Radium Springs Drive, Jefferson Street and even to the Trailways bus depot on Oglethorpe Boulevard. He eventually worked with Romero Alvarez at the latter's San Joe's restaurant and at the Screamin' Chicken on Oglethorpe before Cosby came on board with Billy Boy's.
"I ain't gonna lie; I'm embarrassed that we kept moving (Extreme Wings) around, trying to find the right location," Morris said. "But no matter where I went, one thing I noticed was that I had certain customers who always followed me. Those are the people I'm counting on to help us make Billy Boy's a success."
Helen Morris, Xavier's older sister, will be a part of the Billy Boy's crew, as will other family members. The man known locally as the "Shake Master" will also be on hand, handing out sage advice while sharing the cooking chores with Morris.
"To see someone's dream come to fruition, that's a very special thing," the Shake Master said. "I count it an honor and a privilege to be on board to make this business a success."
Billy Morris died seven years ago, and while he never had the opportunity to realize the shared dream of opening a restaurant with his younger brother, he did, just before he died, encourage Xavier to "never give up on our dream."
That encouragement is what pushes the younger Morris today as he prepares for Billy Boy's grand opening.
"There's a lot of excitement around here," Zay Morris said. "There've been tears and struggle; looking back, it took a lot to get to this point. Now that Dee's in place to run the business and I'm surrounded by people I love and trust, I believe I've finally gotten to the place where my dream can come true.
"I love this location; we're convenient to the Marine base, MillerCoors, P&G, Albany State and other surrounding businesses. I also have gotten tremendous business advice and support from people like Romero, Mr. Bill White, B.J. Fletcher and Kaye Blalock, people I trust and consider mentors. I'm just relieved to know mine and my brothers' dream is about to come true."
Billy Boy's will be open weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.