Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Interview with Willie's Dawgs
All about Fifth spoke to Willie's Dawgs owner Tom Anderson who furnished these answers with the help of his wife and co-owner Ellen Lutter.
AAF: Where are you from originally?
Anderson: My dad was in the Navy, so I was born and raised in Chesapeake, Virginia. But I did my growing up in Brooklyn.
AAF: When did Willie's Dawgs open and what made you choose Park Slope?
Anderson: Willies Dawgs opened February 16, 2008 without any money left to put up a sign. We have been around 2 1/2 years. We opened in Park Slope because Brooklyn is just the best place to be. Having lived here for 30 years we understand the neighborhood, and walking to work means you don't have to look for parking.
AAF: Hot dogs have a special place in Brooklyn culture. How does your establishment fit into this rich history?
Anderson: Brooklynites love hot dogs and good food. And we want to make the two things synonymous. Why not? Given the choice people pick good food. Hot dogs are too much fun to be permanently relegated to the junk food heap. And a high quality, well made, garnished hot dog is even more fun and delicious than an indigestible one. And why shouldn't a vegetarian or vegan have a comfort food fix alongside his or her carnivorous friend? We just wanted to update and upgrade a classic cuisine. It's too much fun not to.
AAF: When it comes to dogs and toppings you have something for everyone. Is the ambitious range utilized regularly or do your patrons favor a certain set of dogs?
Anderson: They do them all.
AAF: With permutation of dogs and toppings nearly infinite--what are some of your favorite combinations?
Anderson: I like chili, raw onion, yellow mustard. I also enjoy pickles, sweet red pepper, yellow mustard, raw onions and jalapenos.
AAF: Your business has a close connection to nonprofits. Do you think this is true of most small businesses?
Anderson: I don't know. We like doing it, even though it is extra work, because even the little things you do add up.
AAF: What are the greatest challenges and rewards of being a small business owner?
Anderson: Challenges: coming up with new and exciting ideas. The competition in New York is fierce. Rewards: being a part of the community, putting a smile on a customer's face, having a dog that is posted in the shop adopted. And of course, coming up with a hotdog combo that hits. It's so great when a customer comes back for more.
AAF: Oh, I have to ask...who is Willie? My dog. (A Brooklyn mutt from North Shore Animal League.)
Interview conducted by Rebeccah Welch