Iconic Ezell's restaurant celebrates 35 years of chicken and community

SEATTLE -- Ezell's Famous Chicken is known around the Puget Sound region for their delicious soul food, and after 35 years of giving back to the community they serve, its founders are making their charity work and youth outreach official.

The restaurant was started in Seattle's Central District by Ezell Stephens and Lewis Rudd and has since expanded to six locations around the Puget Sound.

Since it opened in 1984, Ezell's has employed and mentored inner-city teens, many of whom are still in touch with the restaurant's founders today.

"From the beginning, we’ve always been active in the community, providing encouragement, inspiration to the young people, and supporting those that are out there trying to make a difference in the community," Rudd told Q13 News This Morning. 

One of those mentees is Dominique Davis.

Davis remembers being a young man in the Central District neighborhood, "running around, doing things I shouldn't have been doing."

One day, he saw Rudd standing outside, so he pulled over and had a conversation that changed his life.

"Louis gave me some really good advice," he said. 

Fast forward to today, and Davis is now the head of a local nonprofit, Community Passageways, which works with the criminal justice community on felony diversions to help young people avoid prison time.

"We give kids and young adults second chances," he said. "We hold their hand down a different path. We get a lot of time taken off the table for people who would be in prison."

To celebrate 35 years of chicken and community, Ezell's is making their annual anniversary gala more special this year. Legends and Legacies will not only celebrate the restaurant chain's success, but also the legendary Seattle people and organizations that help future generations.

Ezell's is also starting a foundation to connect small business owners and community-oriented nonprofits with decision-makers and a larger network. The foundation will focus on groups that work in youth outreach, mentorship and entrepreneurship.

Click here to learn more.