Restaurant relishes area expansion
Hot Dog Shoppe opening first new franchise since 1970
The new ownership of the Hot Dog Shoppe restaurants hope Boardman’s logo — “A Nice Place to Call Home” — rings true.
In fact, it is counting on it as it expands the brand with a new restaurant — the fourth for the iconic chain that got its humble start 75 years ago in Warren — in the township.
The restaurant planned for the former Denny’s restaurant, 154 Boardman Canfield Road, due west of the Market Street intersection, will be the first new Hot Dog Shoppe in the Mahoning Valley in more than a half century. The last to open was Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe in Girard in 1970.
The Boardman location is planned to be the springboard toward further expanding the Hot Dog Shoppe brand given, its owner said, there’s really no significant hot dog concept around.
“We want to honor everything that is here. We think we can share it with other people and will start with Boardman and when we’re able to do that, our goal is to franchise this,” Greg Vojnovic, president / CEO of Hot Dog Shoppe Holdings LLC, said.
The company in March purchased the restaurants in Warren, Girard and East Liverpool in Columbiana County from the Trevelline and Doverspike families. The brand was founded in 1946 by Paul Trevelline.
In May, Vojnovic hinted the company was looking to grow. It was working with a Cleveland-area commercial real estate firm to find a location in either Youngstown, Boardman or Canfield.
Boardman, Vojnovic said last week, was the No. 1 requested location among customers. Austintown was No. 2.
“We’re trying to do our thing for the people in the Youngstown area,” Vojnovic said. “It’s kind of a unique thing to this area and it’s special, and we’re just going to try to be very careful with it. We’re stewards of this thing.”
The former Denny’s is a 5,200-square-foot building. In comparison, Girard is 4,296 square feet; Warren, 2,280 square feet; and East Liverpool, 3,220 square feet, according to the auditor’s offices in Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Meanwhile, the average size of a typical fast food restaurant is about 2,500 square feet, Vojnovic said.
The Boardman location will have dine-in seating, and a drive-thru and small pavilion that will need built. At the end of the drive-thru line will be additional space for vehicles to pull ahead.
“This way we can just get a lot of people through the lot more easily because this drive-thru here (Girard) is just a real challenge,” Vojnovic said from his office across the street from Jib Jab. “It was done a long time ago and we’re going to improve that, but will improve this (Boardman) first and one of our hopes, we’ve had a lot of people asking for us to put a drive-thru at Warren … we’d like to and we’ll probably look at doing that next year.”
The restrooms in Boardman will be upgraded to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, part of the dining room will be converted into a prep area and the scullery will be relocated to make room for the drive-thru.
Vojnovic’s timeline to open is in the late spring or early summer. The planned investment is about $2 million. The property sale was final Friday, he said.
Despite some brand knowledge in Boardman, there’s still a challenge with familiarity.
“We haven’t been part of people’s childhoods and what is important, when people come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, they go to the Warren Hot Dog Shoppe or go to Jib Jab and it’s the same, it’s going to remain the same,” Vojnovic said. “What we want to do is start that in Boardman and let people know they will get the same thing.”
The three existing restaurants employ about 150 people. The new site in Boardman will employ about 60.
Larry Moliterno, Boardman trustee, grew up in Girard and worked in Warren for several years, so he knows Jib Jab and the Warren restaurant well. He also gets the historic significance of the new store.
“The first Arby’s was in Boardman. The first Handel’s was in Boardman, so we understand what that is like … There is a lot of history here, but I think embracing the Hot Dog Shoppe like we are hoping to do in Boardman is just another example of how we are trying to balance the traditions the community enjoys with the new type of services. It’s that type of balance that makes a community successful.”