When entrepreneur Jason Hadley pitched his “world-famous chicken bang dip” two years ago on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” the sharks shot him down. Panelist Mark Cuban said he loved the dip but backed off, while Kevin O’Leary told him he lacked a kitchen, packaging and shipping, concluding: “You came here too early.”
Hadley is far better prepared now. Later this month, his chicken-dip business the Bang Shack will officially debut as a restaurant in downtown Hollywood.
At 1,277 square feet, the Bang Shack at 120 S. 20th Ave. will be a showcase for Hadley’s three varieties of Buffalo chicken dip, a blend of shredded chicken, Wisconsin cheddar, spinach and other secret spices. A vegetarian version substitutes zucchini for chicken, while his all-vegan dip replaces cheddar with a cashew-nut cheese created by his wife, Claudia. These flavors will top Bang Shack’s tiny menu of build-your-own-bowls, burritos, hot dogs, nachos and shrimp pasta.
“It wound up being fortunate for me, with all the sharks passing on my Bang dip, because now I’m battle-tested,” Hadley says. “I’m stronger for it.”
But the journey to open the Bang Shack, especially during a pandemic, nearly broke his spirit. Hadley began the business in January 2017 with a single Crockpot and a vendor booth at Yellow Green Farmers Market. It had grown to 12 slow cookers and three stalls before lockdowns 15 months ago shut him down. Without income from the market, Hadley, 47, drained his savings account and took out a second mortgage on his Miami Gardens house. Frustrated by Yellow Green’s long hiatus, he left to chase his dream of owning a restaurant.
The yearlong process to build the Bang Shack also ran into stumbling blocks, Hadley says, after a general contractor doubled his asking price – from $67,000 to $120,000. “About six months ago I told [the city], ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ It was a real low point,” Hadley recalls. A $50,000 Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency grant helped him finish the project.
“A lot of people don’t know why I stay so positive, how I keep bouncing back after the bad stuff, and the truth is I can’t sit still,” says Hadley, who was born in St. Petersburg but grew up in Atlanta with three siblings and a single mother. Before joining the farmers’ market, Hadley sold furniture and, as a pastime, sold his “Bang dip” at parties, picnics and cookouts.
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Hadley’s incurable optimism is hard to miss, especially on social media, where he’s perhaps the savviest hype man he knows. On the Bang Shack’s Instagram page Hadley, usually sporting a Tampa Bay Buccaneers cap, has the joyful charisma of an infomercial pitchman. “Put in an order now and get some of that bang in your life!” he roars into the camera, arms outstretched, as if readying for a hug. “See yours truly, the Bang man. It’s gonna be Bang-tastic!”
Yes, he has catchphrases. Some are cheekily written on a mural on the men’s bathroom wall (example: “It’s a bang-nomenon!”) But his favorite, “Put that bang on anythang” – written in glowing-red neon next to the Bang Shack entrance – represents Hadley’s belief that his dip can improve any food, from tortilla chips to hot dogs to omelets.
“I’m excited to play with the menu,” says Claudia Hadley, Jason’s wife, who plans to make vegan dip at the restaurant a couple of days each week. “It’s easier to start small now and scale up than start with a massive menu. Customers who come now should feel like we’re the same place, the same vibe, that we were at the farmers market.”
The Bang Shack menu features Bang Bowls ($14-$15), which includes a base of brown, white or cauliflower rice (or romaine lettuce) topped with dip and toppings ranging from tomatoes to crushed chips. Bang Burritos ($10-$11), Bang Nachos ($12) and Bang Hot Dogs ($4) are prepared the same way. Refrigerated dips ($8-$20, in 8-, 16- or 32-ounce containers) can be purchased a la carte. A 4-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday Happy Hour will offer half-priced beer and wine.
“I enjoy putting smiles to faces and warming bellies up,” he says. “Nothing’s stopping the Bang Train now.”
The Bang Shack, at 120 S. 20th Ave., in Hollywood, will debut later this month. Hours of operation are noon-10 p.m. Monday-Sunday. Call 954-362-7627 or go to TheBangShack.com.