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What started as a $50 pushcart at La Brea and Melrose avenues now has international aspirations, as Pink’s Hot Dogs continues to expand and spread its sausage selections across the globe.
Now with up to 10 locations, Pink’s can be found in the Midwest, near San Diego, at Knott’s Berry Farm, Las Vegas and, of course, Southern California. Owner Richard Pink said the “little hot dog stand that could” now hopes to open in Europe and Asia.
“Our goal is to continue to expand by licensing to amusement parks, casinos, stadiums, cruise ships, universities, military bases,” he said. “That’s the strategic vision of Pink’s — to be in high traffic locations that attract tourists as well as locals. We don’t want to commoditize Pink’s. We don’t want it to be on every street corner. But we want it to be at special locations. It helps to keep the original Pink’s original.”
At its flagship location, it’s still business as usual — if random celebrity sightings, lines stretching around the block and an ever-changing menu can be considered the norm. Pink said the family business still strives to liven up its menu as much as possible.
“You have to make your hot dogs visually interesting, just like gourmet food,” he said, adding that appealing and interesting selections can entice customers to try new items. “The key to success in the restaurant business is four things — great quality food, excellent service, interesting atmosphere and marketing so people know you’re there.”
Pink said a new favorite is the Ryan Lochte Dog, named after the Olympic gold medalist swimmer. He said the item offers two dogs in one bun, with one frank slightly ahead of the other, symbolizing Lochte winning a race.
Another is Jaws, the hot dog/hamburger combo. Jaws has one burger and one grilled Polish dog, with chili, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Pink also touted the Martha Stewart Dog (9-inch stretch dog with relish, onions, bacon and more), the Giada DeLaurentiis Dog (sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomato, mozzarella) and the Emeril Lagasse Bam Dog (mustard, onions, cheese, jalapenos, bacon, cole slaw).
He said other interesting offerings include the Brando Dog (mustard, onions, chili, cheddar cheese), the Philly Cheesesteak Dog and the Mayor Villaraigosa Dog (12-inch jalapeno dog, tomatoes, chili, guacamole, grilled onions and lettuce). Pink said he hopes to make a hot dog in consultation with new Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Now 73 years old, the restaurant hasn’t lost its touch. Pink, who operates the restaurant with his wife, Gloria, and sister, Beverly Pink Wolfe, said the employees who interface with Pink’s loyal customers have a lot to do with that.
“The great majority of everybody has been with us ten to twenty years,” he added.
Pink’s has also developed an iconic status in Los Angeles, a feat that took decades to accomplish. Pink said it took the company “years and years” to develop its name and reputation and draw repeat business. He quoted his father, “After forty years [in business], you begin to make a few bucks.”
“Things are going very well,” Pink said. “We are very proud of Pink’s.”
The late Paul and Betty Pink started the business in 1939, and soon after, the couple leased the space at Melrose and La Brea avenues for $15 a month. At the time, Cokes were 5 cents, while hot dogs were 10 cents.
In 1941, the landlord raised the rent to $25, a 67 percent increase. Richard Pink said his parents were worried that rent would drive them out of business, so they applied for a bank loan to purchase the property.
“The only collateral they had was their enthusiasm and commitment,” he added.
While meals are no longer 15 cents, Pink’s has remained a familiar face in the community. Although little has changed at the restaurant, it’s the spontaneous visits and events that make each day there special, Gloria Pink said.
“Every day is something new and fun, and we never know what to expect,” she said.
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