BROOKINGS – The family that cooks together has fun together.
At least that’s what Alan Riedel, his kids Steven and Bailey, and his fiancée, Beth Reams, are hoping. That’s why they started Dakota Diggity Dogs, a food cart that serves hot dogs.
“I’ve always wanted a food truck,” said Alan, a self-described “computer geek,” who builds and designs computer technology for Midco customers.
“Well, I love food and I love interacting with people. So with that and that I love small town fairs and carnivals … (a food truck) sounded like a way I could enjoy all of those,” he said.
The cost of that food truck – $25,000 to $45,000 – was a bit prohibitive.
When friends did the Junk Jam and were trying to get vendors, Alan couldn’t resist the siren call of toasted buns any longer.
“I started looking around for a hot dog (cart). Within a day, found one on eBay,” Alan said with a laugh. “Made an offer on it, then drove to Fergus Falls to pick it up.”
“Started on a Saturday morning, and by Sunday at 2 o’clock, I think you were home with it,” Beth said.
Working on a plan
That was in early April, and they’ve been working on that cart and their business plan ever since.
Right now, they offer hot dogs and cheese dogs, and Alan is set on jalapeño cheese dogs. Condiments include ketchup, mustard, relish and onions. They also sell pop, water, Gatorade and chips for a meal deal.
“Those will be the three items we can sell right now. We have a limited food license,” he said.
That doesn’t stop the kids from dreaming up different hot dog flavors they want to try in the future.
Alan thinks including the kids is a great idea as it gives them experience and the opportunity to earn some money for college funds and expenses.
“It’s gonna be a family thing,” Beth said. “But this summer (while the adults are at work), it’s the kids’ thing.”
Steven, 18, just graduated high school and plans to study computer programming.
“So working with computers, like anything else, you have to be able to interact with people,” he said. “I feel like my communications skills are good, but it’s always good to improve. Selling hot dogs to people all over town, you can meet fun people and give them good food.”
Bailey’s paying off a “small scratch” she put on the car, Alan said, but she’s thinking about the future, too.
“I want to have my own bakery,” said Bailey, 14.
She intends to get some experience and find out what people like by contributing hand-made baked goods.
A great debut
To get some direction and create buzz, Alan bought some dogs and buns and invited a bunch of friends to the house. One of the guests had a son who was graduating and sharing a party with a couple of other boys. She talked to the other parents and “they said they wanted to have a hot dog cart at their graduation, so we did their graduation,” Alan said.
Word spread among the neighbors, and they wound up serving graduation parties on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“We did 350 hot dogs in three days,” Alan said.
These ain’t your daddy’s dogs.
“We have a meat market making them for us,” Beth said.
“We’ve had a lot of people say it’s probably one of the best hot dogs they’ve had,” Alan said.
“Come try one because the hot dogs really speak for themselves,” Steven said.
Fresh off the success of graduation season, the entrepreneurs are gearing up for the summer, where they are willing to take their cart anywhere, including weddings and other events.
“We’re gonna be at Runnings on Thursdays (for lunch break),” Alan said. They’re willing to go to other businesses, too.
The family is looking into a couple of things in Minnesota and want to get more involved with community events in the Brookings area. They want to try operating weekend nights downtown to give college kids another option when they have the late night munchies. They also want to try street vending this summer.
“As far as street vending, if people know of a spot where they wish we were, all you have to do is tell us and we’ll give it a whirl,” Beth said.
Dakota Diggity Dogs is on Facebook. They can also be reached at 605-690-4072 and [email protected]
With an open-air cart, serving hot dogs might be a challenge in a South Dakota winter, but Alan plans to go through at least Hobo Day.
“After that, it really has to be an indoor event,” Beth said, with an eye to vendor shows that are interested in grab-n-go food.
“If it’s 40 below, it’ll be tough to boil water outside,” Alan said.
“We couldn’t even get the steam table hot,” Beth added.
Since it’s their first year, they plan to play it by ear.
“We’re just gonna learn as we go,” Beth said.
Part of that learning as they go includes realizing food carts are a new concept in Brookings. They’ve faced some frustration already with the price of the food permit they need.
“The city has ordinances for it, but it’s so new that we ran into a surprise when we went to get our city license,” Beth said.
Because they operate a food cart, they are required to get a 30-day temporary vendor permit that costs $50. They can renew it monthly, but it costs $50 each time.
“If you have a food truck, you buy an annual permit for $75. If we work two months, we’re paying more than a food truck,” Beth said.
“I get it, they need (the 30-day permit) for the people who come in from out of town (for special events),” she said, in comparison to their plan to be out on a daily basis for months.
Starting a trend?
Beth’s hoping their cart proves to be popular and inspires others. “Maybe that’ll expand it and other people will want to try it, too. I just think it would be fun to have multiple selections, not just a hot dog stand,” she said.
Alan has noticed other towns have food truck days where five or six trucks gather in a designated spot.
“I’d like to see that happen in Brookings,” he said. “I think that would be cool.”
Beth is hoping greater numbers will help get the ordinance tweaked.
“It’d be nice if there was some intermediate level in there,” she said.
The family is taking a long-term view of their venture, served with lots of humor.
“I would like to make millions of dollars and retire,” Alan said, tongue in cheek.
“One hot dog at a time,” Beth added.
“Two hot dog carts – we’ll have a fleet of hot dog carts!” Alan said, as the others laughed.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]