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Hot dog stands winning customers

Henchdogs owner Lee Henstchel hands a hot dog to Nick Koloski at his hot dog stand on the Charlestown Road in Claremont. Photo By Kyle Jarvis. (click for larger version)
September 03, 2009
CLAREMONT - One of summer's oldest traditions is alive and well in the city, thanks to local hot dog vendors.

Two new stands have opened recently to join one that has been around for more than a dozen years, and all three owners say they are doing a brisk business along the busy routes of Charlestown Road and Washington Street.

One of them, Kimberly's Fun In a Bun, located on Washington Street across from the K-Mart plaza, opened just three weeks ago. When asked why she decided to open a hot dog stand, owner Kimberly Allard replied "why not?

I'm just a single parent, trying to take care of my kiddos," she added. "And this is a fun way to do it."

Allard, who lives in Charlestown, had spent the last few years as a para-professional for Charlestown Elementary School, working with special needs children. But now she's attempting her own venture with the hot dog stand, and so far Allard is enjoying the ride.

"The people make it fun," she said. "Everybody's been great, and they come back daily. We've definitely built a following already. It gets better every day."

Although one might not think of hot dog stand owner as a viable means of supporting a family, Allard remains positive and optimistic about her business.

Allard's "partner in crime" is her father, Larry Small, who helps out around the hot dog cart, selling and preparing the dogs.

"I'm very happy and excited for these guys," said Donna of her daughter and husband.

As for Allard, she sees Claremont as a place that's "really grown. They've really come a long way here in the city."

Another unique part of what Allard does is her "Something to think about" thought of the day; a quote or motivational message written on a dry-erasable board sitting on the counter of the cart. At the time of the interview in late August, the message read "make peace with the past, so it won't spoil the present."

"It (the motivational messages) is something that's important to me," she said. "As a single parent, I've been through quite a bit in my life, and if I can put a little more bounce in someone's step because of it, then it was worth it."

Clear across town, in the parking lot of the old Short Stop Market on the Charlestown Road, sits another hot dog stand, Henchdogs, owned and operated by Lee Hentschel, also of Charlestown.

Hentschel opened about six weeks ago.

"I own the building here," he said of what once was known as the "Lucky Store.

"But I'm still not sure what I want to do with it, so in the meantime I'm having fun doing this."

A real estate agent by trade, Hentschel still holds his license but has been dedicating most of his time his new venture.

"It's economy proof," he said. "Everybody's got a couple of bucks in their pocket."

Henstchel said the idea of running a hot dog stand was one that "always gnawed at me. I actually bought a cart about five years ago, but I never did anything with it and ended up selling it. But it's something I've always wanted to do.

"The best part is talking with people," he said. "It's a good time. We've already got a nice base of customers, and I'm finally getting the motorcycle friends I've always wanted."

All kidding aside, it's clear there's a friendly frankfurter competition happening here.

"I think Kimberly sent these yellow jackets over here to thwart our efforts," said Hentschel with a smile as he swatted at a few bees. I think I'm going to send a pack of squirrels her way."

For Hentschel, it was an easy to buy the property.

"I grew up in the house next door," he said. "I worked in the store as a kid, selling golf balls I'd collected from the golf course up the street."

Both Allard and Henstchel are hoping to keep their carts open as long as the weather permits.

The undisputed matriarch of the hot dog stand in Claremont is Sonja Lapitsky, who along with her husband, Bill (until his passing two years ago) owns and operates the Food Dood on the Charlestown Road, next to Marro Plumbing Supply.

"We've been here 14 years," she said last Thursday. "We got started when Bill retired and wanted some way to supplement his income. I'm pretty much retired also, but I do need a job for the winter. We're seasonal here, pretty much May to Halloween."

In the Food Dood, Lapitsky has a venue unlike the conventional hot dog stand, in that it's not a stand or a cart, but rather an actual structure with roofed seating.

As for her "competition," she said there's "room for all of us.

Besides, we don't have the same product. Our product is labor intensive," she pointed out. "All of our dogs and burgers are grilled right here by me. They don't come out of a steamer."

Like her counterparts, Lapitsky most gets enjoyment out of "chit chatting" with the people she serves.

"People say the strangest things sometimes," she said. "But Claremont's got a lot of nice fine folks, you just need to ferret them out."

Originally of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but a resident of Claremont for 30 years, Lapitsky also offers a daily chance at scoring a free dog, with the "Dood's Dilemma," which poses a trivia question of a random nature. The first person to answer that day's question correctly wins a free dog or burger.

Martin Lord Osman
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