Employee Jenny West serves a corndog to locals Trevor Holst and Madison Spencer at the Hot Dog on a Stick on Ocean Front Walk . (Photo by Brandon Wise)
Employee Jenny West serves a corndog to locals Trevor Holst and Madison Spencer at the Hot Dog on a Stick on Ocean Front Walk . (Photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — Santa Monica’s original Hot Dog on a Stick updated its eye-catching uniforms in the 1970s and its menus with Splenda-sweetened lemonade.

Now, after almost six decades of use, its building will also get a remodel.

The employee-owned business plans to demolish its 66-year-old building on the 1600 block of Ocean Front Walk — the birthplace of the eatery — and replace it with a brand new (and code-compliant) replica, according to a report for the Architectural Review Board.

The new design will be roughly 220 square feet larger than the original to accommodate extra workspace for its employees and a bathroom that meets the Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

Additionally, the floor will be level, said Michael Riley, one of the architects involved in the redesign.

“Essentially what we’re looking to do is replicate what’s there, but address 21st century concerns,” Riley said.

The building, he said, has “quite honestly outlived its usefulness.”

The plan is the culmination of three years worth of work getting through the Coastal Commission as well as Santa Monica’s city procedures, said Laurie Sonia, executive vice president of the company.

“Really what this is about is making it more current and modern internally for our employee-owners,” Sonia said. “It will also make it a better experience for our customers. They’ll get through the line more quickly, get helped more quickly.”

The company presented the concept of a new building to the City Council in 2009 when the lease for the space — which is actually owned by the State of California — came up for bid, said Judith Meister, Santa Monica’s beach manager.

The company was awarded a 10-year lease, and hopes to have its new building ready in 2014, roughly halfway through.

Under the new design, the building will look almost identical to the existing shop, although it will be slightly larger and the side will have panels depicting the history of Hot Dog on a Stick “through the decades.”

It will be made out of stucco, which Riley said would stand up better to the elements in the beach environment.

“We’ll be recreating the look, but without the materials that create the issues,” he said.

Additionally, the sign will also catch up to its name.

Although few seem to have noticed, it actually reads “Hot Dog Stick.”

That has never bothered Jerry Rubin, a peddler of bumperstickers who spoke before the Architectural Review Board to speak in favor of the remodel.

“I never knew the ‘on a’ wasn’t there,” Rubin said.

If casual conversations about the hot dog-slinging establishment serve, neither did anyone else.

“Hot Dog on a Stick” was the restaurant’s second name.

Dave Barham, the founder, opened the original location on Santa Monica’s “Muscle Beach” in 1946 as “Party Puffs,” and sold ice cream cones and lemonade.

He transformed his product line by dipping hot dogs in his mother’s cornbread recipe and frying them. The modern “Hot Dog on a Stick” was born, and the store took on the name in 1948.

“Hot Dog on a Stick” locations appeared all over the United States, popping up in malls in the early 1970s. There are now 100 locations in 12 states.

When Barham died in 1991, he left the store to his employees in the form of an “employee stock ownership plan,” or ESOP. That means that every employee that works for the company has a stake in it, which creates a special ownership culture, Sonia said.

The stores use a lot of hot dogs, roughly 4.2 million in a year, according to the company, and even more lemons for its signature lemonade.



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