Starting a successful small business takes time and patience. Hopeful entrepreneurs often wait for years, creating and refining business plans, studying demographics and market trends, searching for the perfect time to take the plunge.
Someone forgot to let Josie Hall in on those details. Her business venture began in April 2012, when she saw a hotdog cart on Craigslist. »
“You bought a what?” asked her husband and business partner, Todd Hall, who’s 38 and works in the HVAC industry.
“Yeah, he was a little surprised,” explains Josie, who’s 37 and a stay-at-home mom. “But we had talked about it before. Sort of. Well, once we both agreed how great it would be if we could get really good street-style dogs in Yakima … ”
Longtime fans of the Seattle music scene, one of the Halls’ favorite things about hitting a concert has always been the great hotdogs and sausages they get from street vendors following a show.
So when she saw the cart, she grabbed it. “I mean, really. How often do you see a street dog cart on Craigslist?” she asks.
Growing up in a foodie house, Josie was quick to start thinking about how they could make a hotdog or sausage unique. She knew beer and sausage was a great match, but it had already been done. Then she started thinking about wine.
She thought smoked sausages would pair well with reds and began experimenting with original recipes and trying them out on family and friends. She began making sauces and marinades, and thinking beyond mustard and relish for toppings. And somehow, on the first weekend of last July, about 2 1/2 months after purchasing that Craigslist cart on a whim, the Halls launched Winey Dogs at the Yakima Farmers’ Market.
That first weekend, the smoked turkey sausages were infused with reds from Whisper Ridge Winery in Zillah. In just a few hours the dogs, which cost $5 to $7, sold out. “People stopped and asked what they (winey dogs) were, and took our business cards to share with wineries,” says Josie. And then the requests started coming in.
Each of the remaining weekends of the Farmers’ Market last year, Josie and Todd showcased a different winery. Josie spent the week putting the sausage dogs through her secret marinating process, as well as creating a special Yakima Craft Ale chili to top some of the dogs. The menu features items like the Blue Heeler dog, which includes blue cheese, sauteed onions and a red wine reduction, and the JP Dog, which was named after a close friend and fellow concertgoer who died at a young age (“Rock on, Jeff,” she says.) Each weekend at the Farmers’ Market they continued to do very well.
“We even had about a dozen true followers,” Josie says. “They showed up every Sunday!”
Although Winey Dogs won’t be at the Farmers’ Market this year — Josie and Todd want to spend their weekends with their young children — they will focus on special events. Winey Dogs is already booked for Junior League’s A Case of the Blues and All That Jazz, the Fresh Hop Ale Fest and a new event scheduled for July 29: “Bite of Yakima.” They’ll also undoubtedly turn up at winery events, such as the Gilbert Cellars Concerts at the Cave, which they catered last year.
Winey Dogs caters other events, including weddings, receptions and class reunions. One of its catering menu items is hors d’oeuvre-sized “winey bites.” Winey bites pair with all sorts of party food — and of course, wine.
Winey Dogs are on Facebook:
where you can see where they’ll next
be appearing around the Valley.