Story by Sara Paul
Zooming down Rte. 17A’s 45 mile per hour windy curves, some may miss the hand-written sign pitched rustically beside an old silver trailer that reads, “Best Dam Hot Dogs Around.”
Those who do roam a bit more slowly may stop by the two picnic-tabled clearing and sample some of Sabrett’s largest hot dogs, complete with a variety of toppings, served by a kind old face – a face that has seen far more than franks in his 81 years on earth. Warwick resident, Bud Whitt, has been selling hot dogs for over 35 years.
Pitched mountainside by the Appalachian Trial entrance, Bud meets hikers from all over the world. Socializing with locals as well as visitors, Bud knows the hard work he endures as a hot dog stand owner is what keeps him on healthy toes.
“I enjoy this. It keeps me alive. I also love people…most people,” smiles a kind, yet reserved shop owner, who has had his share of troubles.
While Bud places signs on poles along the nearby roadway to attract customers, he does report that there was an instance of purposeful vandalism recently.
With all well, Bud is back in business, waking at 5 a.m., packing coolers and boxes, arriving to his stand at 6:30 a.m. to start the fire, and opening up around 10 a.m. After a long day, Bud packs everything back up, leaves at about 4 p.m., is home by 5 p.m., and possibly relaxing by 6 p.m.
“It’s a long day for an old guy,” states this U.S. Army Veteran. “It’s hard work, but you have to do something. You can’t watch Oprah all day.”
Hard work and always keeping some Tupperware full of fruit keeps this salesman healthy. Bud munches on an occasional hot dog maybe once a month or so.
“Well, you’re around ‘em so much, it’s nice to have other stuff,” laughs a soft spoken pro, who has traveled with his cart to Canada, Mexico, Texas, and all over the Northeast at local spots and county fairs. Prior to his current location, the vendor was stationed on Rte. 94, where Price Chopper now stands.
Customers from near and far agree that the bold sign by the road is no lie.
“It’s the best dog I’ve had…in about 500 miles,” smiled a young hiker, nicknamed “Wild Thang,” while taking a lunch break from the vast Appalachian trail.
Peter Pakola, a local and a loyal customer for several years says he keeps coming because he finds it a “friendly and delicious spot.”
When pressed on the validity of the “Best Dam Hot Dogs Around” claim, Pakola jests, “Well, that’s what the sign says…plus I won’t get a hot dog if I don’t say that.”
Bud confirms that due to the quality of his products as well as the open kitchen area, where customers can plainly view the food preparation, “People who come here always come back.”
To be sure, in the fall Bud can sell around 1,200 franks during Applefest; this number more than doubles on Columbus Day weekend. In peak season, Bud has assistance from about four employees, including his daughter, who acts as stand manager.
Born in Bell Center, WI, Bud worked as a welder for almost 30 years for 825 Operating Engineers all over the Northeast. He retired in 2002.
The oldest of 11 children, he jests confidently that, “They thought I was so good, so they just kept on makin’ ‘em.”
One of Bud’s brother’s, Randy, was killed in the Vietnam War; another brother, Rodney Joe, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Both were U.S. Marines.
A Warwick resident for 50 years, Bud has been married for 20 years and has four daughters, three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Bud rode Harley Davidson motorcycles for 65 years, acquiring his license at age 12 (the legal age for a permit in Wisconsin). Now-a-days, however, the relaxed old soul enjoys fishing in Lake Ontario, Canada about a half a dozen times a year. He also finds peace in the woods, where he rests on his four-wheeler and soaks in the sounds of nature.
The “Best Dam Dogs Around” is currently open Tues. to Sat. from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will also open on Sundays starting on Sept 1. He will close around the first week in November and reopen in April.
Two dogs with one topping each, a drink, and some chips run patrons $5.50.
Taking a break with WRWD 107.3 softly playing on his portable radio, Bud takes life as it comes and says, “Each day is a gift.”