Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2013

GRANITE QUARRY – Back when he was a student at East Rowan High School in the 90s, Jason Smith was one of several students who took a job at what was then Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium in Kannapolis.
Before they were the Kannapolis Intimidators, the home team there was the Piedmont Boll Weevils.
And, before he was a restaurant owner, Smith was selling hot dogs to baseball fans.
He did so well, Smith said, “that I got my own little hot dog stand at the stadium. I didn’t have to go walk around anymore.”
For years since then, Smith – who also owns a chrome shop – wanted to run a hot dog and burger stand of his own.
“You know how everybody’s got that little nagging dream in the back of their head?” Smith said.
“Well, I always wanted to have a little place where people could come and sit, talk and eat, in a friendly and Christian atmosphere.”
That’s how The Hot Dog Shack came to be.
Smith opened July 23 in the building that formerly housed Reid’s Chicken, at 408 S. Salisbury Ave.
It’s a location Smith said he’d long considered for his business, if and when it became available.
Inside, a tile-topped counter and stools give folks a place to chow down while watching TV.
There are tables, too, and stand-up tables under the awning for those who want some fresh air with their franks.
Fans of Hap’s and the former Al’s Night Hawk in Salisbury will recognize the concept right away.
The menu is very straightforward: hot dogs and hamburgers with a range of toppings, bagged chips, sodas in cans and Cheerwine and Pepsi in glass bottles.
For dessert, there are oatmeal cream cookies from October House Bakery in Rockwell
Smith said he didn’t have it in mind to copy Hap’s or anyone else.
Rather, he’s going with a simple menu that people seem to like.
It’s good business sense, too, Smith said. He explained that there’s less overhead with no deep-fryers, no hard plates or glasses to wash.
And the simple menu means he can hire young people from the community — including, Smith said, the current generation of East Rowan students.
“It’s all about simplicity,” Smith said, “the ability to have minimal storage space, minimal prep time.”
Smith also said his brother had worked in the restaurant business, and gave him pointers on how to proceed.
There are more dining options in Granite Quarry today than before, from pizza to barbecue to Mexican food.
But plenty of people have shown a desire for burgers and dogs during the restaurant’s first days in business.
“Today’s been big,” Smith said late Friday afternoon. “We sold about 200 at lunch.”
That might be due to a special promotion – a dozen hot dogs for $10 on Friday.
The range of toppings could also have something to do with it.
Smith’s wife, April, smiled as she recited the options from memory: “Grilled mushrooms, onions, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, regular cheese, nacho cheese, red slaw, white slaw and chili.”
For April, opening The Hot Dog Shack has been part of a very busy few months. She and Jason married on May 4.
While Jason grilled, she was behind the counter helping prepare orders.
“He always likes to cook,” April said.
And there’s attention to detail. For example, although the hot dogs are classic, old-fashioned pink frankfurters, the coleslaw is made fresh in-house.
Standing outside, customer Roger Wagner said the food was good, and the menu a welcome change from what a lot of folks on the go usually get.
“After you eat at McDonald’s a hundred times, you want something different,” Wagner said, finishing up his meal.
Smith also believes the atmosphere is drawing people in, with retro signs on the walls and contemporary Christian music playing.
“I know a lot of businesses can’t do that, because it’s politically incorrect,” Smith said.
There’s no real plan to expand or change up the menu anytime soon, he said.
Right now, he said, he’s just focused on the near future – meeting people, he said, and grilling up lots of good food.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.