CD’s Wings Heats Up With New Locations

BY Linnea Covington

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Many eaters north of Denver know CD’s Wings well. It’s been a hot spot since 2003 after opening in Westminster. But now, thanks to the mastermind of Dean Copeland, the popular chicken wing joint has flown south for the winter, as well as spring, summer, and fall.

This isn’t Copeland’s first time in the coop, he knows chicken wings. Thanks to years in the industry opening and running corporate restaurants, he also knows how to make a business thrive.

These skills combined have helped him launched CD’s Wings from its large and bustling original location on the northside, and into Aurora. Soon, a third will open in Parker. With these two spots, said Copeland, the CD’s Wings expansion has started.

Diners will find the same great wings and sauces present at all CD’s Wings locations, though the newer models are smaller with a tighter menu. The chicken wings are good too. In fact, in 2023 the restaurant scored first place for judges’ choice wings at Chicken Fight!, DiningOut’s fried chicken festival in Denver. Copeland won with the Nashville hot version, just one of many available at both wing shops.

The Original CD’s Wings

white man in front of colorful sign for wings
Digger Schwarz took over CD’s Wings in 2007 with his wife, Ryan. | Photo by Hard Knock PR

In 2003 the first CDs Wings opened in Westminster (7685 W. 88th Ave.). In 2007 long-time employee Digger Schwarz bought the concept with his wife, Ryan. When the Schwarzes took over the restaurant it was much smaller. But then the pandemic hit. Instead of folding, the couple scored the spot next door, expanding CD’s Wings to allow for more social distancing. 

A few years later and the distance has been closed, the tables multiplied, and the crowd just as hungry for those crispy fried wings, bone-in or boneless, tossed with your choice of around 22 sauces. Today the space remains huge, with 24 friers working double time to serve the crowds. 

Dean Copeland

black man in front of colorful sign
Dean Copeland aims to franchise CD’s Wings. | Photo by Hard Knoch PR

As for Copeland, the entrepreneur has a lot of history in Colorado where he was born and raised in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. Before leaving in 2017 to manage Olive Garden properties in Florida, he worked for the now closed Beast & Bottle restaurant, run by the owners of Coperta in Uptown. During his corporate years, Copeland was basically the “fixer” and went around to six different properties to make sure things ran smoothly. That is, until Wingstop head hunted him. Once there, the chicken wing conglomerate brought him around the South and into Kansas. 

Then, he came home to Colorado and started looking for his own restaurant to run. At first his idea centered on a bar-restaurant, similar to Esters Pub in Denver. But then, Copeland got connected to the Schwarz family after his father-in-law hipped him to the company through a personal connection.

“I went up, met them, and saw they were serious about chicken wings, so I asked if they wanted to work together,” said Copeland, adding he pitched the Schwarz family on franchising CD’s Wings but as a smaller footprint. Eventually, they said yes.

The New CDs Wings

paper bowl with wings
Get the chicken wings or nuggets with a choice of around 20 dipping sauces. | Photo by Hard Knock PR

While the original location remains the same, the new iteration of CD’s Wings is streamlined into a smaller space, with a more set menu. As to why he didn’t want to open another mega wing shop given the success of the first, Copeland stated it’s simply more difficult to create something like that. 

“When it’s that big of a location it’s hard to mimic the sales, they do about three million a year,” he said. “It’s a beast, and the only way to really replicate that is to go to small towns.” 

The plan is to eventually franchise CD’s Wings, starting in Colorado. Right now, Copeland owns the Aurora and soon-to-be Parker locations, while the Schwarzes still own and operate the Westminster spot. While run separately, they work in tandem when it comes to recipes, techniques, sauces, and side dishes.

“Making it consistent all the time, that’s the key, and that’s what I am trying to do,” he said. 

Plus, it’s much easier and more marketable to open a smaller operation, added Copeland. The idea is to keep it fast-casual with limited service where you get it and sit down or take it to go. With these ideals in place, it would be easier for someone to pepper a handful of restaurants in a small city like Colorado Springs. 

“What sets us apart from everyone is we cook all the wings to order, which we did at Chicken Fight! last year,” continued Copeland. “We were there passing out hundreds of wings and we had a  [cooking] trailer there to give people the experience of the restaurant.” 

Given the award, Copeland’s idea worked perfectly.

The Future of CD’s Wings

smiling woman with dark hair in front of colorful wing sign
Ryan Schwarz runs the Westminster CD’s Wings with her husband, Digger. | Photo by Hard Knoch PR

Overall, customers can expect the same great wings and many of the same sauces. While the menu at the newly marketed CD’s Wings remains smaller and more manageable for the staff, it’s certainly not lacking. 

“We have the same core values and same vision, but because they [the Westminster location] are such a big store, there’s a lot of the stuff we can’t do,” stated Copeland. “But we are in a joint venture together and have each other’s best interests in mind.” 

In the end, he added, he doesn’t want to separate the North from South or lose the core base. It’s CD’s Wings, tried and true and hopefully, back this year for another Chicken Fight! victory. 

Visit CD’s Wings in Aurora from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, 6710 South Cornerstar Way, Aurora. The Westminster location opens at 11 a.m. every day, until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 7685 W. 88th Ave., Westminster.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Linnea Covington

Linnea Covington is the managing editor of DiningOut. She comes to us with a long background in food, restaurant and drinks journalism. Over the last two decades she’s written for tons of publications including Denver Post, Washington Post, Forbes Travel Guide, 5280 Magazine, New York Magazine, New York Times, Time Out New York and more.

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