24-year-old hot dog joint relishes customer loyalty

By Angie Hilsman | Aug 08, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Owner Janis Sharek and Fairhaven resident Roger Lacoste.

Janis Sharek started visiting the Fairhaven-based Naughty Dawgs when she first moved to the South Coast in 1995. The Fairhaven resident transitioned from patron to co-owner of the local hot dog chain 15 years ago, and now spends most days on Dartmouth Street, at the brand's only remaining location.

Nestled between two houses, the 743 Dartmouth Street location sells chili cheese dogs, bacon cheeseburgers, and the beloved popcorn chicken — the fan favorite that turned Sharek into a loyal customer.

"I used to go in all the time. The popcorn chicken... that's what she just had to have, me and my two daughters," said Sharek.

Sharek usually gets to the store around 10 a.m., loading in the morning's groceries from Luzo Maxi-Market and Price Rite. Then, she gets to work.

"I'll make soup every single day," she said, mentioning the kale and chicken soups. "I get the Coney Islands ready, and the chili."

The company first opened on Huttleston Avenue in 1993, with two New Bedford locations opening and closing by 2013. The Dartmouth hot dog joint opened in 2011, and in 2013, Sharek took over as sole owner for her business partner and Naughty Dawgs founder Ken Rapoza.

"If they want Naughty Dawgs, it's here," said Sharek, motioning between the checkered and red walls complete with Boston sports icons.

Sharek said her customer base spans from construction workers and Pandanaram visitors, to students from the neighboring Cushman School and Fairhaven residents still loyal to the brand.

"We're most popular with kids. Everyone though... everyone likes hot dogs," she said. "Now with the bridge closed, it's knocked off a lot of people that go this way," she added.

Still, the 544 square-foot eatery — which opened as a "Naughty Dawg Express" and has 16 seats — serves up to 250 hot dogs each day, said Sharek. That's in part because of Sharek's customer service.

Patrons can cash in with a customer loyalty card, getting a free meal of two hotdogs, chips, and a drink after buying 12 hotdogs. The joint also fills takeout orders, and hangs photos of customers' dogs. And the cooks don't skimp on the orders.

"We grill the dog and the bun," Sharek said. The only thing missing is a parking lot.

Looking ahead, Sharek said she's ready for retirement, but has no concrete plans. She'd like more time to travel, and has closed the mom-and-pop shop for recent trips to Ireland for her daughter's wedding and Ohio to visit her son.

Visit Naughty Dawgs online at facebook.com/ND55Dartmouth.

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