On The Menu
By Guy D’Astolfo
CAMPBELL, Ohio – David and John Olson have each spent their entire careers owning and operating fast food restaurants. Now the brothers have realized their dream of going into business together.
They recently opened DJ’s Famous Hot Dogs, at 735 McCartney Road, where they are putting their experience to work. The brothers keep the menu short, preferring to put the focus on quality and flavor.
Their “secret” is the chili sauce, which is made by MP Coney Island of New Castle, Pa.
“We decided to open with a concept that is truly fast food,” John said. “We feel that the fast food industry has expanded its menus too much and is not specializing anymore.”
DJ’s Famous’ menu has only four items: hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries and drinks.
“Taking that [menu], making it the best it can be, with the quality and cleanliness of our store, we feel we have a good concept going,” John said. “[In the future], we’d like to open up more units, depending on how things go here.”
John worked for more than 20 years as a minority owner and operator of Burger King stores mainly in the Pittsburgh area. David did the same at Burger King locations in the Youngstown area.
It took them a couple of decades to finally pull the trigger on their goal of going into business together. Acquiring the rights to use MP Coney Island chili sauce was what sealed the deal.
“We always loved the MP Coney Island sauce from back when we were in high school,” David said. “About six months ago, John and I went [to MP Coney Island in New Castle], enjoyed their dogs and said, ‘We just have to do it.’ We started negotiating with the owner of MP, and came to an agreement to purchase their sauce.”
A sign on the front entrance of DJ’s proudly proclaims their hot dogs use MP Coney Island chili sauce.
When the brothers, who hail from Lowellville, began their search for a location, they gravitated toward the McCartney Road site, a former Jay’s Hot Dogs shop that had been vacant for over two years.
“The building was designed to be a hot dog shop, and it’s the right size and in the right place, the right market,” David said.
Fronting on McCartney Road, with its heavy traffic count, helps DJ’s pull in customers. Most of the shop’s business – at least 60% – comes from its drive-thru.
After securing a rental deal for the building, the brothers replaced all of the old fixtures and equipment, and gave the store a top to bottom renovation inside and out, spending between $50,000 and $75,000.
DJ’s Famous Hot Dogs has seating for 26. It employs 18, with an additional two managers. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and closed Sundays.
David calls the location “a prototype” that will be repeated in future locations.
In addition to their concept and quality, there is another reason the brothers expect success. The Youngstown-New Castle area has always had a special love for hot dogs, John said.
“I once read an article that said New Castle was the hot dog capital in that more hot dogs were sold there per capita than any other place,” John said. “So this area has always been good for the hot dog business and that’s why we started where we started.”
Copyright 2021, AfterHoursYoungstown, Youngstown, Ohio.
Posted July 7, 2021.