A new market hall at The Junction at Gateway, as depicted in this rendering, is part of Onyx Equities’ sweeping overhaul of the four-building Gateway Center in Newark. — Courtesy: Onyx/Gensler
By Joshua Burd
A Newark restaurateur and U.S. Army veteran is expanding to the city’s Gateway Center, becoming the 10th new operator to join a new-look retail and dining concourse at the complex.
Onyx Equities, which is overhauling the four-building, 2.3 million-square-foot property, said it will welcome Uncle Willie’s Wings to The Junction at Gateway with a fully built-out restaurant space. The developer selected the eatery among 30 local operators involved in a contest for the remaining unit, noting that it will be the third location for owner Walter “Willie” Green and his partners, which operate another brick-and-mortar establishment and a food truck.
For Green, the announcement comes more than two years after he almost had to close his first restaurant during the COVID pandemic and quarantine, but still served up to 1,000 free meals a week to food-insecure residents of the city.
“To see Walter Green go from feeding his Newark neighbors during the pandemic to thriving and winning the restaurant build out competition is an incredible joy,” Mayor Ras J. Baraka said. “Having Uncle Willie’s Wings here in the Gateway Center will give residents, commuters and visitors the opportunity to experience his hospitality and his flavorful wings. We thank Walter for his service to our Newark community, congratulate him on his new restaurant and wish him continued success.”
Green is a Newark transplant from Chicago who opened the first Uncle Willie’s Wings in Newark’s South Ward in August 2019, according to a news release. But the business was teetering less than a year later, during the height of the pandemic, when he hosted what was known as Willie’s Day to feed his neighbors in need and joined the organization known as Newark Working Kitchens.
The exposure gained from his generosity help save his business, the operator said, laying the groundwork for the expansion to Gateway.
“We are very excited to become a part of The Junction at Gateway!” Green said. “It is an amazing achievement to have our second restaurant open in just a few years and on top of a pandemic. We are grateful to Onyx Equities and the city of Newark for supporting us and making this opportunity possible.”
At Gateway, which is connected to Newark Penn Station through a network of pedestrian sky bridges, it will join a concourse that serves thousands of daily commuters in the complex and for the broader population in and around downtown Newark. Onyx is in the midst of revamping the space as a hub for dining and hospitality, part a $50 million renovation to the overall complex after the firm and its partners acquired three of the four buildings in late 2018.
It will deliver Uncle Willie’s Wings’ new space at no up-front cost to the eatery.
“As we continue to transition Gateway into a seamless extension of Newark’s downtown district, we are also playing an active role in redefining the surrounding neighborhood as a center for business, gathering, dining and entertainment,” said Jon Schultz, co-founder and managing principal for Onyx Equities. “We take our position in this community very seriously and will continue to create opportunities for local businesses to thrive and get the attention they deserve.”
Uncle Willie’s will join nine other new restaurants coming to The Junction at Gateway, including award-winning Mokbar, Serafina, Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, Fresh & Co, Greek from Greece Bakery & Café, Farinella, 375˚ Chicken & Fries, The Brookdale and Chip City Cookies.
“Mr. Green is an incredible person with a solid business plan and most importantly who makes amazing wings,” said Matthew P. Flath, vice president of asset management at Onyx Equities. “We are excited to welcome him to The Junction and know that he will be a big hit with our thousands of visitors.”