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Cedar Mill News
Volume 6, Issue 12


December 2008

The DivaFeatured Business
Diva Dogs
By Virginia Bruce

Next time you’re hungry for a great quick lunch, a snack or coffee break between errands, or a late breakfast, head over to Home Depot! Diva Dogs has been providing top quality sausage sandwiches and other delights from their classy stand in front of the home supply store since last summer, but they’re still relatively unknown. And perhaps some people don’t realize that it’s a totally different business than what was there before—high quality food, clean and friendly service and really great coffee and espresso, too.

Patti Santrizos and Linda Helwig met each other when they both worked in real estate. They quickly became good friends. Linda had been nurturing an idea for several years of starting a hot dog stand that carried the great New York style Kosher dogs she grew up with. She invited Patti to become her partner and Diva Dogs was born.

They researched the idea and finally decided the time was right when the former stand in front of Home Depot went out of business. Linda talked to Home Depot management and found out they were ready for a new kind of business there.

diva at home depotLinda had worked in food service before, starting out at a Lake Oswego deli and eventually managing catering for the Heathman Hotel where she created weddings, dinners and business meetings, and even threw a surprise birthday bash for Robert Goulet when he was in town performing in Camelot. So she combined her love of food with the business knowledge she and Patti had and began looking for suppliers, learning about regulations, and corralling all the many details involved in running a food business. It took about a year before they were ready to open in June this year.

Through a referral they discovered a local meat supplier that makes many of its own sausage products with meat from Oregon’s Carlton Farms with no MSG or nitrates. And while they were visiting with the supplier, Linda recalls, “We had chosen another brand of hot dogs to sell when they asked us if we knew anything about Sabrett Hot Dogs from New York. I nearly fell out of my chair with excitement. Originally from New York, I was quite familiar with Sabrett and knew that they would go over really well with the public.”

But their quest for quality didn’t stop once they had found their sausages. They buy their buns fresh locally—over 90% of the products they sell are locally sourced. There are fresh onions browning on the grill, and a crock of sauerkraut stays hot and ready. Toppings for personal application include yellow or brown spicy mustard, freshly chopped raw onions for those who prefer them that way, jalapeño and pepperoncini, several kinds of hot sauce, relish, and of course catsup. And there’s never an extra charge for any of the toppings that make their special dogs even more so.

Patti Santrizos makes another perfect latté

Their commitment to quality and local suppliers led them to Longbottom Coffee & Tea Co., which is headquartered in Hillsboro. Patti says, “We knew Longbottom was excellent and wanted to support local business. They did our training at their roasting company and continue to be very hands-on with us as we grow. We purchased our Semonelli Espresso machine from them and it digitally tells us if we pour a perfect shot. We rely on this wonderful machine to do justice to Longbottom’s superb coffee. People tell us they can tell the difference in our coffee so we know we have made the right choice.”

She continues, “We use top of the line Monin syrups in our coffee and Italian sodas. It does make a difference once you taste it. We have a large selection of regular and sugar-free flavors. If we don’t have what you want let us know and we will do our best to get it for you.” Italian sodas and smoothies along with regular sodas and brewed coffee round out their beverage offerings.

Now that they’ve been around for a while, they’re getting customers who don’t actually need any home improvement products! They’re becoming a popular destination for the employees of the Science Park companies and beyond. Unlike most hot dog stands, they have a phone and are happy to take phone orders and they can take credit cards. They’re eventually planning to do some catering once they’ve become better known.

The stand is very attractively done up in their signature colors of red and tan, featuring the Diva herself, a creation that was a collaboration between the partners and the professionals at Impact Signs, who turned their sketch into a finished design.

diva customer

There’s plenty of seating out front if you want to eat there and watch the contractors come and go. Or they’ll package your selection so it stays warm and fresh until you get where you’re going. Attention to detail is obvious in everything they do, from the quality and flavor of the food and drinks to the packaging and design.

Patti and Linda love working together, even after all the pressure involved in starting a business, and their skills are complementary. Linda says, “We each have different skills that seem to work together. I have a great love of food and have always wanted to own my own business. I love cooking and I like having everything look as good as it can. Patti is really good in organization. She can fit an elephant into a jar and it looks great. We both enjoy working with the public and have been very fortunate to meet some really great people.”

One of their biggest challenges has just been to anticipate what customers will want. Patti explains, “Our Clam Chowder is a big hit and we now serve it on a daily basis due to the many requests for it. The Coney Dog is another popular choice. We have a Jalapeño Cheddar which couldn’t get any better and does sell out before the end of the day at times. Our most popular hot dog is probably the All American, 1/4 lb. skinless pure beef kosher, no nitrates nor MSG like all of our hot dogs.” They say that the milder bratwurst “Queen of Brats” sandwich is more popular in the morning as a breakfast sandwich.

They joined the Cedar Mill Business Association and started advertising in the News to get the word out about their great food. Linda says, “We just need to get people over to try one of our hot dogs. Those who have tried one say they have never had a more delicious hot dog in their lives. After four and a half months, we still have one everyday! They are really hard to stay away from, being so full of flavor and being Kosher means no funny stuff just pure beef, how great is that?!”

Linda lives nearby in Bauer Woods, but Patti commutes from her home in Dundee. She loves the Cedar Mill area, but her family lives in wine country, and she and her husband of 39 years designed and built their home together.

Diva Dogs is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm (winter hours) and is located right in front of Home Depot on Science Park Drive. Call them at 503-643-3482 to order your lunch or find out more about their offerings.




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Published monthly by Cedar Mill Advertising & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
12110 NW West Rd
Portland, OR 97229