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Cole Bradley

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and applied anthropologist. Since 2011, Bradley has worked as a researcher, strategist, and community engagement specialist across the city's private, public, and non-profit sectors. Passionate about storytelling, Bradley began contributing to High Ground News in 2017.

Riko's brings the heat to Madison Heights

By Published: May 30, 2019 5:27 PM CT

It’s lunchtime at the Madison Avenue-Cleveland Street exchange and the aroma of frying chicken and spices fills the air. As the name suggests, Riko’s Kickin Chicken is not tame.

“You get a little of our chicken and taste it, you will be kicked,” said Lapecus Gross, a longtime friend and colleague of Riko's co-owners, Mariko and Tiffany Wiley.

In the kitchen, Mariko and cook Reggie Owens fill a growing list of orders with seemingly impossible speed. Customer favorites are the hot wings and whole chicken, broccoli and cheese, shrimp burger, fried fish and kickin fries with peppers, bacon, cheese and ranch sauce.

At the counter, Tiffany Wiley manages the phone and the line of hungry customers, hugging her regulars. "Our customers feel like family,” she said. “They come in and meet us and the next thing you know we’re hugging. We keep up with each others’ kids and graduations, you know.”

Located at 1329 Madison, the business is a family affair. The Wileys opened the store in March 2017. Their daughter, Mariko’s sister and Tiffany’s mother all help out, as well as a number of longtime friends including Gross.

Jerin Towns eats at Riko’s two to three times a week. “There’s no one I’ve ever invited that hasn’t been back,” she said.

Felecia Rucker tried Riko’s for the first time recently and returned with her daughters. “This is our new spot,” she said.

Mariko Wiley got his start washing dishes at D’Bo’s Wings-N-Things. He spent 10 years with the business as a cook and caterer and built a fan base. “At that point he decided to step out on faith and do his own thing,” Tiffany said.

They started with a food truck in 2013. Four years later, while working an event for Youth Villages, they met the owner of the building on Madison. He was impressed by their food and offered them the space.

“It wasn’t the prettiest location, but we saw the potential, and of course we were in the Medical District so it was a no-brainer to go from there,” Tiffany said.

Riko’s is in Madison Heights, a neighborhood centered on the Madison-Cleveland intersection within the larger Medical District. Tiffany said the location offers exposure to commuters, walkability for pedestrians and a community of other small businesses.

“We were already working a food truck in the Medical District, and we knew the love they had for our food and the uniqueness of it,” she said. Riko's catfish, deep fried then dipped in flavors from honey garlic to Jamaican jerk, has a following.

They start each morning with 25 to 30 cases of chicken and sell out by 7 p.m. The Wileys are expanding vegetarian options later this year and currently offer a veggie burger. 

In March they held a brunch to celebrate their two-year anniversary, and they’re hosting a second brunch with a new twist. On June 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Hustle and Brunch will give customers the chance to bring their business cards and network with entrepreneurs and business owners from Madison Heights and beyond while they dine.

“I always try to create things that I wish were around when I was trying to network and figure this whole entrepreneurship thing out,” Tiffany said.

When they do begin expanding their staff, they’ll hire from the neighborhood, she said. “This is where it all started and we plan to stay here.

“I would love to see people cross [from] the apartments across the street and come to work,” she said. “Actually be able to work in their community, buy things in their community and grow with their community.”

She said she hopes in the next five years, the area looks like Overton Square, with facade improvements, full storefronts and busy sidewalks. “I want people to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Madison Heights this weekend. I’m going to eat, shop, socialize and have a good time. Then go to work because I work in the neighborhood, too.'”

This story originally appeared at High Ground News, Memphis’ source for neighborhood reporting. Sign up for the newsletter here

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Madison Heights Riko's Kickin Chicken

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