Many times, when restaurants close, you don't always hear the reason(s) why — unless of course you know the owner/operator, or an employee. In other instances, however, the drama behind a closure is well-documented, and private scuffles turned into very public headlines and desperately little profit.

I was unaware that rapper and hype-man Flavor Flav once owned and operated a fried chicken restaurant in Clinton, IA of all places. Before you ask, the former Public Enemy founder isn't from Iowa. His one-time restaurant partner, Nick Cimino, however, calls Clinton home. What could've been potentially the next national chicken franchise to compete with the likes of KFC and Popeye's instead turned out to be a miserable failure compounded by ego, greed, and a reality TV star's lack of knowledge about the restaurant business.

The Origins of Flav's Fried Chicken:

Photo Credit: toastedrav, YouTube
Photo Credit: toastedrav, YouTube

Flav's Fried Chicken was a restaurant conceptualized by Flavor Flav and Cimino, who were introduced via Nick Cimino's brother, Peter, who ran Mama Cimino's in Las Vegas. Peter began selling chicken wings using Flavor Flav's recipe while the rapper and Nick decided to open their first establishment in Clinton, IA.

Flav's Fried Chicken opened in January 2011 on Second Street in Clinton, adjacent to a KFC. In an interview with Flav while he is cooking his famous chicken, he revealed what sets his mouth-watering poultry apart from the likes of stiff competition, which, at the time, also included Church's Chicken, Harold's Chicken, and Mama's Fried Chicken:

The secret of FCC is not within the breading, it's within the meat. I season my meat first [....] If you take the breading off my chicken, you'll still taste the flavor.

Flav's Floundering Chicken:

Flav's Fried Chicken closed in late April 2011, barely three months after opening its doors. By all accounts, the restaurant was indeed popular, although one-fourth of a year doesn't tell much of a story for long-term success and sustainability. Debatably, Flav's Fried Chicken became more known after it closed due to the very public spat between Flav and Cimino, who were caught up in a vicious cycle of blaming others for the failed business.

As reported in the Clinton Herald, Flav's early April trip to the restaurant led to him discovering expired potato salad (Cimino and several employees denied these claims). He added that his business partner "mismanaged" the entire restaurant and gave Flav a bad reputation as a result.

Moreover, Cimino had this to say to the Clinton Herald when asked about the business failing:

[Flav] takes credit for everything and he has to be stopped. He will keep doing this to other communities. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. He didn’t know what was going on with the business, he confused everybody and he wanted to switch how I ran the business. He was supposed to be here for appearances and run with the public.

Cimino actually apologized to the residents of the eastern Iowa city for "bringing such an imposter and fraud into Clinton."

Employee checks apparently bounced. Cimino claimed Flav's drug use and absenteeism sent Flav's Fried Chicken into a tailspin early. In addition, Flav's decision to have the oil changed every hour; many restaurants change oil after a week or two.

The Branding Opportunities Were Out of Control:

Anyone tangentially familiar with Flavor Flav knows he loves being the center of attention. The rapper has been the star of several reality TV shows over the years. Just a few years before opening his Clinton restaurant, Flav was the co-star of a UPN sitcom called Under One Roof (I remember being one of probably a dozen people who actually watched it weekly).

With FFC, Flav found a new avenue for branding himself. Everything from the restaurant's sign, to the menu, to the décor of the establishment was emblazoned with his face and likeness.

We Nearly Got a Flavor Flav/Clinton Reality Show!:

According to the Clinton Herald, Flav apparently wanted to film a reality show of him earning a degree from a Clinton-area high school. Both Clinton High School and Central DeWitt High School denied the show. When Flav made what was his last public visit to the Iowa town in April 2011, reality TV crews were in town trying to pitch a show revolving around FFC. This was just a few years before Wahlburgers became both a national chain and a successful reality show centered around the Wahlberg family.

Photo Credit: CNN Business, YouTube
Photo Credit: CNN Business, YouTube

The Aftermath of Flav's Fried Chicken:

The location of Flav's Fried Chicken (916 North Second Street in Clinton) eventually became a couple other restaurants. As of today, it's home to Cousins Family Restaurant, which has been going strong for several years. Meanwhile, Cimino's other Clinton restaurant, Mama Cimino's, closed six weeks after FFC.

Flav didn't have much more success with his fried chicken restaurants after the Clinton ousting. FFC tried and failed in Henderson, NV; Flavor Flav's House of Flavor in Las Vegas also closed in 2012 after six months of operation; and Flavor Flav's Chicken and Ribs was evicted from its location in Sterling Heights, MI in 2013.

Now, Flav's Fried Chicken is merely a curious piece of Iowa history, but a fascinating one no less. Read more about the restaurant on its Wikipedia page.

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