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August 21, 2012

Frank's: Just like family

Editor's note: This story was originally published July 9, 1992

Frank's Hot Dogs has the look of an old-fashioned restaurant.

There are bar stools at the counter, small signs that display the menu, old photographs on the wall, a large window looking out on the main thoroughfare of Five Points and the owners -- Frank and Peggy Barco.

With a chef's apron tied around his waist, Frank Barco asks a young customer seated at the counter with a newspaper if he would like the usual.

Barco calls most customers by name and usually knows what each will order.

One regular is David Jamison, who eats lunch at Frank's almost every week.

" Frank's hot dogs are the best in town!" Jamison said. "They're always fresh. I like the texture of the weiners and the buns are soft."

Jamison should know. He's been eating lunch at Frank's a couple of times a week for 10 years.

He had been eating breakfast there until the Barcos moved their breakfast business to the Five and Dine, their new restaurant across the street.

But Jamison hasn't given up hot dogs. He continues eating lunch with the Barcos.

"The Barcos are just nice people," Jamison said. "It's like eating at home with your family."

The Barcos have added hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pimento burgers and chili burgers to their lunch menu.

"I never thought I'd see the day when we'd be serving hamburgers," Peggy Barco said. "It's a lot more work, but customers like the addition."

"The hamburgers are excellent as well," Jamison said. "Sometimes I'll have a slaw dog and cheeseburger and other days, I'll have two slaw dogs or alternate with a bowl of Peggy's homemade chili."

Peggy Barco's family had been in the hot dog business in Norfolk, Va., for years, but about 20 years ago the Barcos realized no one was selling the kind of hot dogs they were used to eating.

Thinking people would like them, they decided to open a business to sell them. They leased the store at 800 Harden St. and put up a sign.

"We thought it was a good spot, and it still is," Frank Barco said. "People come from all over -- Newberry, Congaree, Sumter and Camden, as well as local people to eat them."

The Barcos serve a New York style beef and pork hot dog with a natural casing.

Customers get a choice of toppings -- there's the Slaw Dog, Kraut Dog, Chili Dog and Relish Dog.

Charlie Sterne has been going to Frank's for years.

"I've tried them all. My favorite is the slaw dog without onions," Sterne said, "But for a change, I'm going to have the pimento cheeseburger today."

The Barcos have enjoyed their Five Points business and have made many friends through it.

"It's a good feeling to go somewhere and hear someone call our names and say how much they enjoy our hot dogs," Peggy Barco said.

They've seen students come and go and are even serving hot dogs to the children of people they've watched grow up and marry.

It hasn't just been local people who have frequented Frank's Hot Dogs over the years.

Celebrities such as Lowell Thomas, Tony Bennett, Arnold Palmer, Red Skelton and Joe Frazier heard about Frank's Hot Dogs and went by to try them.

The recession slowed things down a little last year, Frank Barco said, but business is picking up.

He recalls when they sold hot dogs for 35 cents and cold drinks for 20 cents. Prices have gone up, but he claims to have the most reasonably priced hot dogs in town.

"Customers don't have to wait around when they come here," Barco said. "They can come in and eat and be gone in 10 minutes."

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