One scroll through G.G.’s Chicken and Waffles Instagram account will tell you a lot about it’s founder, Garrison Goodlett. Alongside pictures of buttery waffles and golden fried chicken are family photos and videos. Videos of Garrison in a mop wig lip synching to Michael Bolton. Garrison cloaked in a blue sheet with his children -mainly his daughter-lip synching a Dickensian Christmas song complete with frolicking. Then there’s my personal favorite. Garrison dramatically falling in love with a cup of peach cobbler decorated with two spoon arms and pink cartoon lips. Garrison undeniably knows how to have fun. He also knows how to fry up a mean chicken wing. Most importantly, however, he knows there would not be a G.G’s Chicken and Waffles without his family or his faith.
In 2018, Garrison didn’t know frying chicken at his church would pay off a year later. An underwhelming experience left him believing not only had he tasted better, but – just maybe- he had already done better. “We were cooking a lot of the time at my church. I ended up being the main chicken fryer [and] I think all those chicken frying days… I think God is rewarding me now.” There are dribs and drabs of God throughout our hour long conversation. He doesn’t proselytize. He simply talks about God the way someone mentions their spouse or their child – peppered throughout the conversation because they’re so prevalent. Regardless, Garrison is unapologetically clear “I do want to let people know that I honor God. He’s behind everything, and He put the idea [for this business] in my mind from the beginning.”
Garrison is equally clear about the critical role his family plays in the business. Since its early days at the downtown Des Moines and the Valley Junction farmers’ markets, G.G.’s Chicken and Waffles has been a family business. His wife acts as a social media manager and consultant. His children make Instagram cameos participating in their father’s antics. His teenage son is -well, a teenager- and may require encouragement to join the IG fun. “If you see [my son] doing stuff [on Instagram] I may have bribed him or I may have threatened him” Garrison teases. His children’s involvement definitely extends beyond the fun and games. The peach cobbler currently on the menu is a daddy-daughter collaboration. The value of modeling ownership for his children is not lost on Garrison who says he has been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Family involvement, however, does not end with its immediate members. It’s during this point in our conversation that Garrison’s broadcaster voice, and engaged upbeat tone falters. His cadence changes as his voice deepens, and his tone becomes reflective. This is when he admittedly -and noticeably- becomes emotional.
“There wouldn’t be a G.G.’s Chicken and Waffles without my family. I don’t know that I can say that with enough emphasis. They started helping me without being paid. Even though I pay them now, [it’s minimal]. They allow me to continue this. My parents – my mom and dad. They have been with me in the heat [of summer], and in the cold. My brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law have been there. They’re not obligated to help me. My children…my son has been there all the time. My daughter has come in now and she’s more [involved] with the prep. I appreciate them. I couldn’t have done this business without them. I could not have done it without my family. They make-They make me want to be a better person.”
Emotion aside, G.G.’s Chicken and Waffles is still a business and is run accordingly. Complete with a business manager (his father-in-law), industry advisors, and the twin sisters of small business- trial and error. One decision that is paying off is the October 2020 move to its current location at Kitchen Spaces. The move put the business in an accessible neighborhood among permanent businesses with similar clientele. “People know the Drake Diner. There’s a barber shop [and] Rico’s [Pub]. The location is just better and this is a really great situation for us.”
Despite the current positive situation, Garrison and family have bigger plans. Plans that tie faith and family to community. “Food, family, faith, fun [and] philanthropy. Those are the five things I want our business to be about.” Like so many, the events of 2020 were a wake up call for Garrison who said he felt as if blinders had been removed. “This [business] is going to be a means to an end, not just for my family. It’s going to help me help other people.”
For now, that help is supporting other Des Moines BIPOC businesses like Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce – owned by Garrison’s former coworker-and Big Daddy’s Bar-B-Q owned by family friends. Support also comes in direct service. “I just sent a text to my team,” Garrison says, “I want to do a food giveaway. Some people- right around here- in our own faces don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.” It all may seem like a tall order to some, but Garrison and family seem to have the recipe for success.