For Pat Cranston, the concession business runs in the family. The White Bear resident opened Daryl’s Dog House in 2013, but his grandfather, Daryl, got into the business after he retired roughly 35 years before that. And he’s not alone.
“My uncle has burgers,” Cranston says, while others in the family have shaved ice, lemonade, and the Minnesota State Fair favorite of deep-fried blooming onions and Scotch eggs. “So everyone has their own little avenue and has branched off.” Cranston joined some of the family last year by getting into the State Fair, and while he’s been involved in the family business since childhood, getting his hot dog stand into the State Fair wasn’t always his goal.
“My grandfather built me a lemonade stand when I was 8,” Cranston says. “When I was a little bit older I got to work with some of the grills, and then a little bit older than that I got to start with the fryers.” But then he went to college. “I went to college to be a cop and I ended up selling hot dogs,” he says. “You know, it’s true what they say, if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. And that’s kind of how it is for me.”
At the State Fair, the number of hot dogs Cranston sells is in the thousands. “We’re in a good area,” he says. “It’s in the West End Market. They just redid the whole thing, so it’s really good, we get a lot of traffic coming through there; we’re lucky.”
And with all the food options at the State Fair, you might have already guessed that Daryl’s Dog House doesn’t sell ordinary hot dogs. The best seller is the Chicago dog, but a close runner-up is the Saint Paul dog, which is a dog topped with bacon, French-fried onions, and melted cheese sauce. “It’s more of a Midwest meat-and-cheese-lover one,” he says, “and the Chicago is more of the fresh vegetables.”
His invention of the Saint Paul dog is part of what got the stand into the State Fair. “That was part of our proposal to the fair—that we can’t be duplicated because no one has ever made it before.” And the Chicago dog is special because they order everything they can right from Chicago companies. “The dog is shipped straight from Chicago, our relish is shipped right from Chicago, as fresh as we can possibly get it that day.”
The types of dogs they serve depend on where the stand is set up. In the past he’s done an Iceland dog, German dog, New York-style, Kansas City-style, Seattle-style and more. “A lot of your major cities have their own dog,” he says. “I mean, if you just Google it, it’ll tell you which specific toppings are on it.”
When Daryl’s Dog House isn’t at the State Fair, it can be found throughout the Twin Cities at various events, including right here in White Bear Lake at Marketfest. There are also events in Maplewood and Bloomington. “Every weekend you can find us somewhere, from April to October,” Cranston says.
And when he’s not with the stand, he’s at home with his two daughters, ages 2 and 4. “[My wife and I] don’t do day care, so I’m a full-time stay-at-home dad Monday through Friday,” he says. “During the week I’ll work Thursday nights or Friday nights, and a lot of Saturdays and Sundays.” Which is part of why he loves working the dog stand: “It allows me to stay at home every day with my kids, and that’s basically a blessing in and of itself.”
For the upcoming State Fair, Cranston says you won’t find any new items, but you will find the stand in the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book. “It’s a really big deal,” he says. “We’re in there for $2 off any Saint Paul dog, or you can get two Saint Paul dogs for $8.” Next summer, though, a new item may appear on the menu.
“I think my favorite part [of the fair] is the duration,” he says. “Eighty-five percent of our events are one-day events. For us to be able to go somewhere and set up and just sit there and have constant traffic going by for 12 whole days, it’s like the equivalent of a 9-to-5 job in this business, and you just don’t find that very often.”
Between following in his grandfather’s footsteps, being able to spend time with his kids, and working a job he truly enjoys, Cranston knows he’s lucky. “It’s pretty unusual, pretty special, that we get to do that,” he says. “Not everybody gets to do something that they love, getting up in the morning and doing every day.”
To find out where Daryl’s Dog House will be, check out their Facebook page.