DIXFIELD — A pair of fourth-year college students are breathing new life in the local, iconic hot dog cart business, Doug’s Dogs.

Cody St. Germain, a physical therapy major at Husson College, and Caleb Turner, an environmental science major at the University of Southern Maine, can be found most every day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of American Legion Post 100.

Both had jobs last summer with the Rumford mill, but layoffs eliminated their seasonal work.

“We were looking around for jobs and there wasn’t too much around,” St. Germain said. “So, we thought, at the very least this will be fun and we’ll make a little bit of money and get some good experience, too.”

Both had been doing odd jobs. “I got sick of painting, pretty quick,” St. Germain said.

The idea to do this came about when they saw the hot dog cart on the River Valley Swap and Sell Facebook page.

“Brad Dyer’s wife had posted it,” St. Germain said. “We talked to them and got a deal on it. We always came down here as kids and everything; thought it would be a fun idea at least.”

They purchased the cart the Wednesday or Thursday the week before opening on July 6.

They decided to keep the name of Doug’s Dogs.

“We wanted to keep the tradition going,” St. Germain said.

“It’s like a brand in itself,” Turner said.

Doug’s Dogs has been in the same spot in the parking lot of the American Legion in Dixfield for 19 years, 17 years by Doug Swan and the last two by Brad Dyer.

“Keeping it in Dixfield was the big thing,” St. Germain said. “That was one of the reasons we got a deal on it when we bought it from Brad. Him and Doug wanted to keep it here; it’s been in this spot, right here, for like 19 years.”

“They wanted to make sure it was sold to someone who would run it here,” Turner said.

An added bonus with this business are the conversations.

“That’s one of the reasons we did it,” Turner said, “because between me and him, we probably know 90 percent of the people in the town.”

Asked if they still have “star power” because they were on memorable state title teams while at Dirigo High School, Turner said, “We have a guy who walks all around here every morning, and we talked to him and he asked what our names were. We told him and he said, ‘Geez, you guys are famous.'”

“He didn’t know who we were but he knew our names,” St. Germain said.

While they don’t yet have any of their own concoctions as yet, St. Germain said, “We take requests. We had a couple people tell us that they like green peppers and onions, so we try to do that. One of my family members dropped off fresh produce for us.”

They have customers, like Aaron Jamison, whose taste in hot dogs they already know.

“We get a lot of younger kids coming in, too,” St. Germain said. “Jon Holmes’ grandson has been here every day.”

St. Germain said five or six people came in on this day before 10 a.m., and people have been in as early as 8:30 a.m. asking for hot dogs to feed their family.

He said, “We have a few people who stop in every day to sit for a couple hours. We’re slowly starting to get those guys back who were regulars.”

St. Germain said the business was shut down for a week or two before Dyer sold it. “Often times, you see someone ride by and they’ll kind of do a double take and say ‘oh, they’re open.'”

They are facing traffic that goes through the only intersection in town with a signal light, which is interesting in itself.

“We saw someone get arrested the other day, right over there,” St. Germain said. “We see a lot of nice cars, a lot of bikes.”

“I can’t even count the number of times I’ve waved to people,” Turner said. “Kind of wish I did keep track.”

“We’re waiting for a tractor-trailer truck to pull in here, but it hasn’t happened yet,” St. Germain joked.

He said, “We had a group that came in yesterday (from Delaware and Pennsylvania) who have been coming to Webb Lake to family camps there for like 50 or 60 years. They’ve been coming to Doug’s Dogs essentially from the time (he started running it.”

“Most of the people we get from out of state have never seen a red hot dog before,” St. Germain said. “When we put it in the bun for them, they say, ‘what the heck is that?’ One woman made her husband eat it first to make sure it didn’t poison him.”

“Those people ended up being really nice,” Turner said. “We ended up talking to those people for about an hour that day about their trip to Bar Harbor.”

Asked what they’ve learned from the experience so far, St. Germain said, “I’ve learned a little about business and everything.”

Turner jokingly added, “The art of not getting the buns soggy.”

St. Germain noted that the experience of a small business is good as well because he hopes to start his own physical therapy business in the future.

Friday was a lost day for business because they needed to have the hot dog cart inspected in Jay.

“There is a decent amount of prep work,” St. Germain said. “Each one of these bins has to be washed every day and we have to wipe it all down. Almost everything you see, other than the stainless steel, goes inside or is stored in the truck. We’ve got to get ice every morning for the drinks. It takes us maybe an hour in the morning just to bring everything out and get things going.”

He said they’re required to have washing stations and at least three sinks, with pressurized water.

“There’s a little lawnmower battery that sits inside that powers a sump pump that pulls water so you wash everything with hot and cold water,” St. Germain said.

“We use Germ Max and wash our hands a lot throughout the day, and we’re not just dumping our gray water; we have a collection bin for the gray water,” Turner said.

There’s been quite a bit more to doing this than they realized.

“The first day, Doug was down here to help us and kind of showing us the ropes, and then the day before, we fired it up at my grandparent’s house and Brad came up and showed us his ways. He had a different technique, so we took the best of both worlds,” St. Germain said.

The pair are still working out what will happen to the business when they go back to school.

“We’re looking into some other people who will probably be running it at some point, too,” St. Germain said. “My grandfather (Dale Carlton) has a pretty good interest in it, I think. And Jon (Holmes) and Doug (Swan) offered to run it, too.”

They said they might continue to run the cart on some of the weekends they are home.

Meanwhile, Cody said they are planning on setting the cart up at various local events, including the music festival at Welch’s Campground this Saturday, at Andover Olde Home Days on Aug. 1 and the Dixfield Main Street Market on Aug. 15.

Caleb said, “I think it’s been a good experience. It’s been nice being our own bosses. Someday, we’ll be back in the real world and we’ll have bosses again. We’ll be shell shocked there.”

But they’ll always have something to fall back on.

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