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Experienced Firehouse Subs Franchisees to Bring 10 New Atomic Wings Locations to the Midwest

Eric and Stefanie Engelstad are set to bring Atomic Wings to North and South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

By Jeff DwyerStaff Writer
SPONSORED 11:11AM 07/26/23

Eric and Stefanie Engelstad are a couple with a shared commitment to making a difference in their community. Combined, the pair have more than 13 years of experience in the franchising space and are passionate about bringing quality food to the Midwest.

Driven by their desire to introduce a new and exciting franchise concept to growing areas of the Midwest, Eric and Stefanie stumbled upon a new opportunity with Atomic Wings. After being captivated by the brand’s potential, Eric and Stefanie have decided to embrace the role of area reps. The couple has signed to bring 10 new locations across North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. After opening their first location, they are now looking for strategic franchising partners to help expand the Atomic Wings brand throughout the Midwest.

1851 Franchise recently spoke to the couple to learn more about their story, their experiences in the franchising world and their plans for the future.

1851 Franchise: Frame your personal story for us. What did you do before franchising, and how did you decide franchising made sense for you?

Eric: I got involved with the franchising space about 10 years ago when I became a franchisee with Firehouse Subs and opened my first restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We currently have six locations in South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa. Prior to that, I worked in banking. I was looking for an opportunity outside of the corporate world that allowed me to grow a business, provide jobs and make an impact on my community. I eventually became an area rep for Firehouse Subs. I really enjoyed that position, and I’m excited to be able to get back into that role with Atomic Wings.

Stefanie: I’ve been working with Eric for the last three years. Before that, I worked at a law firm where I focused on business development. When COVID hit, we decided it was the right time for me to get involved with the restaurants. I started by focusing on everything from Human Resources, business development, customer development, marketing and catering. But when Eric became an area rep, I started overseeing the six restaurants and focusing on operations.

1851: What was your perception of franchising prior to becoming a franchisee, and what do you want people to know about franchising now that you are in it?

Eric: I always liked the franchising model because it provides you with an opportunity to grow with a brand, allows you to work for yourself and gives you a path to accomplish your goals. You can determine whether or not you want to open one location or several. The growth possibilities are up to you, and that has really motivated me.

Stefanie: Joining a franchise allows you to be a small business owner, but also gives you access to a support structure so you’re not doing it all on your own. There are people in the same boat to support you and give you direction. I really like that. Starting a business on your own can be challenging and intimidating in today’s environment. With a franchise, you have a whole network of support to help you through difficult times.

1851: What made you pick this brand? What excites you most about this company?

Eric: We really like the growth opportunities with Atomic Wings. I’m passionate about working with franchisees and helping them grow their business, and I’m excited to be able to do that with Atomic Wings. Plus, I really like wings. We first tried Atomic Wings while we were visiting Arlington, Texas, and we absolutely loved it. So, when we discovered this opportunity, we were thrilled about it.

1851: What do you hope to achieve with your business? What are your plans for growth? 

Eric: We’re planning on 10 locations, but we’d definitely like to help open more than that. And we believe this market can support more. We’d like to bring Atomic Wings to the community we live in and introduce the brand to a wider audience throughout the MidWest.

1851: What is the one thing about your story you want us to know?

Stefanie: A big part of our story is giving back to the community. Yes, we provide people with jobs and meals, but sometimes we’re able to do more than that. During COVID, when nurses were tirelessly working long hours and were exhausted, we were able to provide something that impacts their lives. It’s not just about the food; it’s about giving them a moment of respite.

Eric: During that time, Stefanie, our teams and I stepped up. At one point, we prepared and delivered over 1,500 meals to local hospitals and nurses. We even partnered with Verizon to provide even more meals to hospitals. Through that partnership, we were providing about 500 meals every day, five days a week. It was a remarkable experience.

Stefanie: With Atomic Wings, we’re excited to be able to expand on moments like those. We’re making an impact in someone’s life.

1851: What advice do you have for other people thinking about becoming a franchise owner?

Eric: Do your research and understand exactly what you’re getting into. Make sure you actually enjoy what you’re doing because this is a big decision. You can’t just open a business and expect to make money; you’re going to have to work. Make sure it’s something you’re passionate about.

Stefanie: Be prepared because it’s a very emotional experience. It has its highs and lows. There will come pride, excitement, disappointment and frustration, but it’s worth it.


Atomic Wings was created in 1989 with a mission to share authentic New York-style buffalo wings with the world. Now, with dozens of restaurants open in the U.S., Atomic Wings is setting its sights on nationwide growth. In addition to its existing locations in New York and Maryland, Atomic Wings has additional units signed to open in Arizona, Nevada, California, Indiana and Texas. Led by owners and brothers Zack and Ray Omar, the brand offers customers fresh, never frozen, natural and hormone-free chicken wings hand-tossed in 14 proprietary sauces, a classic menu, a welcoming dining experience and a commitment to quality. Franchisees can expect to make a total investment of $152,000 to $347,000 in a single Atomic Wings franchise location. Franchisees interested in multiple units can expect to make a total investment of $197,900 to $381,000 for a minimum of three franchise locations. For more information about Atomic Wings, please visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.