Closing after three decades: Shorty & Wags

KINGFIELD — When Harold “Shorty” Prebish served his first chicken wing from the corner of 38th & Nicollet, Jimmy Carter was president, disco was all the rage and the Minnesota Vikings were suffering through a frustrating losing season.

Okay, so perhaps not much has changed about the local NFL team during the past 32 years. But Prebish’s Shorty & Wags Original Chicken Wings has certainly enjoyed a long and storied run serving some of the tastiest fried chicken in Southwest.

On Oct. 30, Prebish, 72, is closing down Shorty & Wags. Sales remain strong — in fact, as news of the closing has circulated the past few days, Wags has occasionally run out of wings before closing time — but Prebish is retiring from full-time work and has decided to close his business and sell the commercial building at 3753 Nicollet Ave. S.

“I’m just getting burned out with the fast pace,” Prebish said. “We sell a lot of wings here, and go through a lot to make this happen.”

But don’t expect to find Prebish relaxing on a beach anytime soon. “Retirement,” for him, consists of moving north with his girlfriend to Longville, Minn., and opening a new chicken wing joint in Cass County perhaps as soon as next spring.

Prebish is unsentimental about the end of his three-decade-plus run at 38th & Nicollet.

Asked about what he anticipates feeling during Wags’ last day, he said he’s “not going to be crying.” In fact, Prebish said he’s looking forward to closing up shop and moving north.

But his girlfriend, Kerry Johnsen, said Wags’ closing is “sad for the customers,” many of whom have been enjoying Prebish’s wings for much of their lives.

Prebish surely hasn’t seen the last of many Wags’ regulars. He said numerous customers have approached him and said they look forward to again enjoying his fried okra, catfish, chicken gizzards and corn muffins while vacationing once he reopens in the north woods.

But until Oct. 30, Prebish said he’ll remain as busy as ever making sure that Wags still serves some of the best chicken in town.

“Hopefully we don’t run out of wings before then,” Johnsen said.

— Reach Aaron Rupar at [email protected]. On Twitter at @atruparJournals.