The hot dog has both its avid lovers and devoted haters, but two local businessmen are continuing to change the minds of customers on the polarizing American dish.
The career of a hot dog vendor is not known to catch the eye of many youth but has been in the mind of Alex Marshall, co-owner of Harbor Haute Dogs since he was a child. “My first memories were when we were stationed in Chicago,” he said. “I was like four years old, and my dad took me to a hotdog stand after preschool, and I thought that was the coolest job in the world.”
Marshall officially began to live out his dream in 2017. While he was working as a head chef in Gig Harbor, he purchased his own hot dog cart with the support of his wife, Megan. For the next few years, the cart would be a part-time gig, more of a hobby than a real business. However, in a strange turn of events, the COVID-19 pandemic actually opened a window of opportunity.
“When the pandemic hit, (Guy Storz) and I started working together at the gas station in Port Orchard,” he said. Our buddy, he called us up and was like, ‘I want you guys to come out here and feed everybody for free. I’ll pay you for the hot dogs, but feed everybody for free as a way of saying thank you to the community helping him out during the pandemic.’”
Marshall said he was contacted about several requests for their return the night following the event. Since that time, the Parkview Terrace Food & Gas has become one of the regular hot spots for Harbor Haute Dogs and a place for the two men’s imaginations to run wild.
“We just take hot dogs and think of something that we really love and make that into a hot dog,” said Storz, also a co-owner. “People love the Chicago Dog. It’s just so full of condiments, it’s a meal. Probably our signature dog is the Rangoon Dog; people seem to really love that one.”
The growth in their following was much faster than Marshall said he could have anticipated. Eventually, the question of whether or not to open a more permanent location came up. “This is our second year going full-time with it, and everybody just kept asking us, ‘When are you guys going to get a storefront?’” Marshall said. “We were like, oh, we want to stay mobile, and then we were just getting too busy.”
That storefront will eventually be located inside the newly revamped Town Square Mall, a place that since its original heyday had become notorious for being a businessman’s graveyard. But Marshall and Storz expressed excitement about the mall’s new ownership and having their own store. Unfortunately, the cart will be parked for a while as the men work to build the same welcoming culture, along with plenty of wiener jokes.
“You work at a hot dog stand. I mean what do you expect,” cracked Megan, who has made a habit of managing the business’ goofy social media. “These two are crazy to work with, but they’re fun. At the storefront, we don’t want to lose that.”
Customers can expect to not just enjoy a delicious haute dog, but also have Megan ask them to pose with it to show off the boys’ latest creation and the absolute joy on the faces of customers. Marshall and Storz will regularly crash the pictures as well.
It’s this fun attitude that the two men believe should continue to thrive in this new store. Storz talked about preparing the store and their new employees on putting care into the food, which is almost all locally sourced from the meat to the sauces. “Our employees need to know that they’re part of the community,” Storz said. “It’s not a McDonald’s or that kind of fast food.”
A start date for the new store has yet to be confirmed, but Marshall and Storz said they expect to be up and running in no time.