America was deep in the Depression the year that Frank Caiazzo got into the hot dog business. It was 1933 and millions of men were wondering where their next dollar was coming from. Not Frank. Frank was planning to become a successful businessman. And he had a good idea how he’d do it. Frank was a barber at the time, and not far from the shop where he worked in Waterbury, Connecticut was a hot dog stand. Frank had noticed that the owner closed his stand each fall and spent his winters in Florida. “Why,” asked Frank, “can’t I do the same?” One day Frank noticed a “For Sale” sign on a piece of vacant property that he passed daily on the way to work. He visited the owner of the propety and asked, “How much?” “Three thousand dollars,” came the reply.
Frank sighed and went home. Three thousand seemed like three million then, he recalls. But Frank discovered that he didn’t need the $3,000 all at once. His father offered $500 as a down payment, and Frank bought the lot. He asked his brother Paul to join him in the hot dog business. Now he had a lot and a partner. What he didn’t have was a building.
Because the young men were ambitious, likeable and persuasive a local lumber company gave them building materials on credit. They built the stand themselves and opened their doors. Business, however, was slow. “It was so bad,” says Frankie, “that when someone came in, we’d give him an extra cup of coffee just to keep his car in our lot!” Business improved, but not as fast as Frank and Paul had hoped.
They looked around for something new to make their store different and Paul came up with an idea: an extra long hot dog. Their hot dog supplier, Carl Roessiler, agreed to make it for them and their baker provided a special bun to go with it. The foot-long hot dog was an instant hit.
The super hot dog gave a spurt to their business. Gradually, as more help was needed family members were employed. In 1941 Frank and Paul opened a second restaurant with seating for sixty. By that time the Caiazzo brothers were, indeed, successful businessmen. In 1946 they spent the first of many winters in Florida, a sign of true success.
Today, Frankies is an institution in West Haven and beyond. In fact, it attracts customers Florida to Maine and Coast to Coast. With hard work and determination, dreams really do come true.