Shore Lore: A Business With Relish

“I am never bored watching people eat hot dogs,” says Rena Levine Levy. “They are so particular about the preparation. Then you see ecstasy in their faces when it’s just right.”

Levy knows her dogs. The CEO of WindMill Franchise Corporation has watched people scarf down the salty staple—charred, kissed by the grill, or somewhere in between—ever since her father, Leo Levine, and his brother, Ed, bought the first shop in 1976. The eight WindMills—all in New Jersey, four of them franchised—sell an average of 14,000 dogs each week. Want to surprise a far-flung WindMill devotee? You can order by phone or online (800-874-8282; Last Christmas, Levy says, the WindMill sent a five-pound package to a hot dog doyenne in Hawaii. “It’s like biting into nostalgia,” the customer told her.

“Everybody has WindMill stories,” Levy says. Some of hers include surprise marriage engagements at the counter, hungry brides and grooms arriving for a post-wedding run, Bruce Springsteen jumping behind the counter to work the grill, and, her favorite, planning a WindMill-catered backyard barbecue for her daughter’s engagement party.

Levy often fields calls from prospective franchisees. “My favorite is a man named Jason Adler,” she says. “He worked for us for 20 years, and my uncle promised him the chance to own one. He bought a franchise and just celebrated 25 years with us.”

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