Laurie Sonia is the executive vice president of Hot Dog On A Stick, where she is responsible for store leasing, new business and strategic communication. The Encinitas Hot Dog On A Stick, is only the second store in over 65 years to be placed outside of a mall setting, the only other location nationwide being the original store in Santa Monica. The recent 1 year anniversary of this location marks a milestone in the growth of Hot Dog On A Stick and future “street stores” for the company, which is headquartered in Carlsbad.
Q: What have you found is different between running Hot Dog on a Stick in a mall versus as a “street store”?
A: The street location in not holiday dependent like the malls are. Weíve shifted our focus from targeting mall customers to targeting the community, and we are easier to access at our Encinitas street location than a mall, so we get more repeat customers. Running the Encinitas street location has been a great experience. We have had the opportunity to be more a part of the community. The biggest lesson we learned is how to make Hot Dog on a Stick a destination versus an option at the mall.
Q: What made Hot Dog on a Stick want to diversify its business via opening a street store?
A: In opening a street store, we realized we would be adding another tool to our toolbox, and with this new “tool” weíre able to serve a wider range of customers, as we’re no longer limited to mall shoppers. The street store has also created a stronger visual in our community, as our branding and its bright colors are now highly visible to drivers and pedestrians.
Q: How did you celebrate your one-year anniversary this past weekend?
A: Hot Dog on a Stickís Encinitas street store is so appreciative of the community, so we offered free lemonade all weekend to anyone who visited the store and purchased a regular priced item. We also treated customers to one free hot dog on a stick – our signature item, of course – between 3 and 4 p.m. on both days. The customers were definitely happy to celebrate our anniversary with us.
Q: Can you give us a brief history of the company?
A: Hot Dog on a Stick first opened in Santa Monica in 1946, so weíve been around a long time. The first store initially sold lemonade and ice cream cones to beachgoers, until our founder, Dave Barham, used his mom’s cornbread recipe to create the breading for our hot dogs on a stick. Today, the company has over 100 locations throughout the country, but we’re still selling Dave’s original menu because that’s what people love, and we’re proud of that.
Q: What made you decide to open only the second Hot Dog on a Stick street store in the nation in San Diego County?
A: Many people donít know this, but Hot Dog on a Stick is actually headquartered in Carlsbad, so despite having stores nationwide, we have very close ties to this community; that’s what made us want to open this street store in San Diego County. And the great weather doesn’t hurt, either, because people certainly don’t need to hide in the malls here!
Q: Your company is 100 percent employee owned; can you tell us a little more about how that came about?
A: Our founder, Dave Barham, passed away in 1991, after building up the Hot Dog on a Stick brand for 45 years. Instead of selling, he left 100 percent of the company to its employees, because Dave believed it was the people working for him that made the company so successful. Hot Dog on a Stick has been an Employee Stock Ownership Plan company since June 18, 1991.
Q: What are other ways, in addition to the street store, that Hot Dog on a Stick is making itself more accessible to the community?
A: We love to work with schools and give back whenever possible. As much as weíre a company, we’re also a group of people that believes in always bettering our community. That’s why we’re involved in organizations like Encinitas Little League. We are their league sponsor this season. Additionally we are involved with the San Dieguito Boys and Girls Club, the Encinitas school system and a range of others.