Serving up hotdogs a family business
“Vienna Beef hotdogs are the best there is. Period. End of discussion.”
So asserts Chris Caudill, the behind-the-counter owner of Roy’s Chicago Dogs at the Yard, where his wife Sara and mother-in-law Ginny Schropp are co-owners. Outside, the place doesn’t look like much, and its Corona Road location in the Petaluma Livestock Auction Yard may seem odd.
But it’s historically accurate. The yard has been the site of one diner or another since the 1940s.
Of course, due to its location, people mistakenly believe the restaurant’s meat comes from the auction.
“Except for the veggies and Yanni’s sweet Italian sausage, which I buy locally, everything from the naturally-cased hot dogs, to buns, relish, pickles, sport peppers, New York-style beef-naval pastrami, the Italian beef and no-bean chili, come directly from Chicago. It costs more, but it pays off. We get Chicago people who come in weekly. They say we’re doin’ it right.”
Starting as a 14-year-old busboy in the Highland House at the Santa Rosa Golf Club, Chris moved to the front of the house as soon as he could.
“My work experience is in high end restaurants,” Chris explains, “and Sara and I owned Quinley’s Drive-In in Sebastopol for years. But doing breakfast, lunch and dinner can wear you down.”
Which is why Roy’s Chiago Dogs only serves lunch most days of the week - except for Fridays, when they do a fine BBQ and stay open until 8:00. Sundays they are closed.
“When we took over,” Chris says, “we retooled things. It’s more culturally broadened, the food is way better, things are fresher, and it reflects my personality. It’s fun coming to work. I play the Blues music I like all day, and serve quality, freshly prepared food to friendly people.”
The Hawaiian word “Ohana” (extended family) sums up the place’s vibe. Mother-in-law Ginny creates the home-made mustard, and is a waitress on occasion. Sara does social media, and Chris and Sara’s 6- and 12-year-olds pitch in on Saturdays.
“Our customers are like family too,” Chris says proudly. “We may not know their name, but we know them by what they order.
“You,” he adds, pointing,” like two cheese dogs.”
It’s now closing time at Roy’s, and the Palestine-born cleaner, Asmahan, arrives.
“Our helpers are really like a family,” he says. “Asmahan has been here for over four years, and her daughter Dee worked here all the way through college. Now she’s a Marin County deputy sheriff. Employees stay with us.”
Nodding to a helper he adds, “Janel even came with the place.”
“I love it here,” Janel adds. “I have another job as office manager with a landscape company, but I still work here when I can. It holds lots of good memories for me. I even met my future husband here. We got married in September.”
Chris has modest plans for the future.
“I want to have a honky-tonk, juke joint feel, so I’m having a 1960s Seeburg jukebox refurbished, and already have the 45’s for it. I’d like to have a classic car show here in October to celebrate our fifth birthday. If you put that in the paper, I’ll have to do it.”
Janel nods in agreement.
“Chris works best when he’s got a deadline.”