Waffles and Whatnot Eagle River was Derrick's first stand alone attempt at operating a restaurant. Having never opened or operated a restaurant before, he nonetheless took a leap of faith to bring his dream to life. Though he wrestled with his decision, the passing of his mother on November 1, 2018 and the conversations she'd had with him just before her passing, catapulted him forward. Waffles and Whatnot Eagle River was opened on November 23, 2018. It became a thriving location with lots of local fanfare as Alaskan's had been requesting a physical location for quite some time.
It was quite a popular eatery but the then inexperienced entrepreneur simply had too many obstacles to climb and adversities to overcome, beginning with the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that destroyed most of his restaurant's equipment just 7 days after opening. Eventually, in August 2019, Derrick had to shut the doors. However, this isn't a sad story because he used those lessons learned and opened the new Waffles and Whatnot at 500 Muldoon Road in Anchorage, eventually getting noticed by Guy Fieri and Food Network, as well as Entrepreneur Magazine and even USA Today's veteran section.
Derrick grew up a Southern Baptist in Fort Pierce, Florida. After attending Fort Pierce Westwood and Central High schools, he entered the US Army in 1998 and served 21 years as a Military Policeman. During his service, he continually strived to give back to the community through his efforts as a sexual assault victim advocate, domestic violence victim advocate, suicide interventionist, and Master Resiliency Trainer in addition to his law enforcement duties.
Derrick's life mission changed when his then wife found a lump in her breast at age 33. She underwent an immediate lumpectomy and later a mastectomy, while also enduring a brutal chemotherapy regime. Sitting in chemotherapy lounges and watching beautiful human beings suffer partly inspired Derrick to do something to ease the suffering.
That something arrived in the form of a nutrient packed pancake recipe Derrick developed after realizing his wife's worst day was the third day after chemo. Derrick wanted to create a food that was B.R.A.T. (Bananas, Rice, Apples, Toast) compliant that would provide some energy, even if only a small amount was ingested. He later converted his pancake recipe into a waffle and the Gourmet Apple Cinnamon waffle mix was born.
After serving 11 years of Active Duty and 6 years of Active Alaska National Guard service, Derrick decided to take a chance on himself and founded Waffles and Whatnot. He began with a picnic table on the sidewalks of Anchorage, Alaska and soon upgraded to a food truck.
About nine months after selling his first waffle to Miss Jasmin Smith, Derrick was invited to Palo Alto to Facebook where he was inducted as a member of Facebook's Small and Medium Business Council. There, Derrick learned a deeper value of community as well as how to better reach the people he hoped to serve. It was an amazing experience that motivated him to perpetually ask the question, "What else can I do?"
Derrick prided himself on creating his recipes that people began to truly fall in love with. So many folks asked for packaged mixes to send to their families that he decided to iterate WAWN once again. He flew to Seattle where he jumped in a rental car and drove from Washington to California and then to Michigan, visiting various manufacturing facilities along the way. He returned to Alaska with a working knowledge, a blueprint of sorts, on how to set up his own manufacturing operation and WAWN Family Products was born.
What's a great story without some tragedy? 2018 began an amazingly challenging time period for Derrick and WAWN as he struggled to help his mom as she battled cancer and AIDS. She'd struggled for so long with HIV but had accumulated so many pesticides in her body from eating many southern classic dishes that she eventually developed AIDS.
Derrick flew his mom up to Alaska where he observed her ingesting her daily regime of pills. He decided to try and reduce the number of pills she had to swallow by creating what is now known as the Bad Ass Yard Bird a.k.a. Mama's Best Fried Chicken batter. With that combination of BAYB fried chicken, Apple Cinnamon waffle, and House Sauce, she was able to get rid of six pills.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late and Derrick's mom, Linda Gilliam, passed on November 1, 2018. Determined to see his goal through, Derrick opened the first Waffles and Whatnot in Eagle River, Alaska on November 23, 2018, just 7 days before a magnatude 7.1 earthquake completely destroyed the restaurant's equipment and food supply.
The earthquake destroyed the restaurant but Derrick persevered and the crew worked their butts off to get it back open. Afterall, Derrick had invested every dime he had from retirement accounts, couch cushions, and any other source to bring the dream to life. Unfortunately, too many errors had been made in the managing of this highly popular and successful eatery which caused Derrick to lose both the restaurant and his house within 24 hours of each other in 2019.
Again, Derrick pressed forward although it seemed everyone around him wanted him to quit. He held the faith and managed to reopen a new location in March 2020; a flagship model of his vision for WAWN's future.
Grit, resiliency, and perserverance paid off as the new Waffles and Whatnot location blossomed into great success. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri who then invited Derrick down for Guy's Grocery Games. Derrick was subsequently interviewed by Entrepreneur Magazine, Food Network, Cuisine Noir, and was even featured in USA Today. In November 2022, Waffles and Whatnot became an SEC registered franchise available for purchase across the US.
It all started with a vision and Derrick's is as sharp and focused as a hungry falcon locked onto a pigeon. Through faith, gratitude, and informed action, Derrick and the amazing crew at Waffles and Whatnot plan on bringing his health influenced and incredibly delicious to your city, forging community partnerships and meaningful relationships along the way. We look forward to serving you.
If you've made it through this story, go ahead and use the promo code LINDA_ANN to take 20% off your next online purchase. We appreciate you.
A WORD FROM DERRICK
"In 2016, I created Waffles and Whatnot to serve as a social enterprise that realizes our motto, 'No Gimmicks, Just Greatness.' Each WAWN associate is dedicated to bettering the world around them and is dedicated to our mission of changing lives one amazing experience at a time.
WAWN is devoted to giving back to each and every community that helps make our company a success. A portion of every dollar you spend with us becomes an agent of community change. Thank you for empowering us to make a true impact on the communities in which we live and work. I greatly appreciate each and every one of you."
• Derrick entered the US Army in 1998 and served 21 years as an active duty Military Policeman
• He is an advocate for veteran suicide prevention, mental health, and sexual assault survivors
• One of his many charitable activities included a 22-day walk to raise awareness for veteran suicide
• His community-minded approach is seen through many public events and activities, including a cultural potluck & talent show that he organized in Mt. View, which is America's most diverse city. The event brought together people from all walks of life for a cultural arts experience.
• Derrick was invited to join the Facebook Small Business Council as a founding member.