PEMBROKE — The Depot Hot Dog Shop in Pembroke lives up to its name in more ways than one. Located near the old railroad depot station, the window-service-only stand is devoted to old-fashioned steamed hot dogs.
Tony Locklear, owner and hot dog aficionado, said the Vance Street store’s soft opening was June 24 and the goal was simple.
“We needed some good hot dogs in town,” Locklear said.
Based on the more than 1,000 hot dogs sold the first three days of operation, it seems he’s not the only one happy about the new hot dog stand in town.
“I’ve always enjoyed the old fashioned steamed hot dog, versus the deep fried or grilled hot dog,” Locklear said.
Until recently, satisfying his appetite for the timeless classic has involved a journey to the coast.
A former Red Springs police officer, Locklear has relished the idea of opening a hot dog restaurant for several years. Instead of going to a bank, he wanted to fund the enterprise out of his own pocket. The original plan was draft beer and dogs. The problem was availability of affordable space in town with adequate parking, and he wanted to be near the old depot station location to accommodate the name for his new business. Locklear decided window service would be the best way to go.
The window service appeals to a certain clientele, especially those who want to eat and run.
“Our turn-around time is two to three minutes,” Locklear said.
He attributes the speed to the point-of-sales system recommended by James Freeman, interim director of the Entrepreneurship Incubator.
A program of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, the Entrepreneurship Incubator helps new businesses get started and existing businesses grow.
“I tell a lot of people if it hadn’t been for the incubator, I probably would still be trying to open,” Locklear said. “What James did was, instead of me putting the cart in front of the horse, he helped me put the horse first, then saddle, then reins and then the cart … .”
It’s a no-frills setting, with no seating due to the lack of a public restroom, but Locklear said it’s a great starter location, “especially for me pulling out of pocket.” He’s researching standing stations with umbrellas for on-site dining.
Here’s the beef
There is no mystery meat in The Depot’s hot dogs.
“These are really good all-beef hot dogs,” Michael Mollohan said.
He should know.
Mollohan said he did “marketing research” for Locklear by sampling every hot dog served at other establishments in the area, and he’s a frequent customer at The Depot.
Customer Betty Brooks has walked up to The Depot’s window four or five times since the shop opened, and orders the two-dog special every time.
“It’s delicious,” she said.
First-timer Demetrus Locklear recently visited the hot dog stand and says he will be going back.
“I love all-beef hot dogs, and it’s rare to find someone who actually sells them that way,” he said. “The simple hot dog is underestimated sometimes.”
From the menu
The Teriyaki Dog has a precarious position on the menu, and Locklear said he might remove it, but he’s waiting for feedback from UNCP students.
“The people who have tried it, they’ve loved it,” Tony Locklear said. “I think a lot of people are just scared of it.”
The Brave Dog, featuring two hot dogs on one bun, is suited to people who like a lot of meat with less bread. The traditional Depot Dog, similar to the Carolina Dog, is topped with ketchup, mustard, slaw, chili and onion.
The Angry Dog has a heat that won’t fade away too soon, and Hellish Relish is topped with jalapenos, spicy mustard, relish, onions and a pickle.
Also included on the menu are Taco Dog, Pineapple Dog, Chili Dog, Cheese Dog, Naked Dog and The Dirty Dog.
While Locklear hopes to have his hot dog stand in place for many years, he is already looking ahead to other windows of opportunity.
“I would love to open other shops in Lumberton, Aberdeen and Pinehurst,” he said. “My next location will be a sit-in restaurant.”