Dorri Partain

Have you ever eaten here – where everything’s so dog-gone good?

Started as a summer opportunity to earn money, two music teachers from the University of Illinois opened a hot dog and root beer stand in Champaign in 1953. James Griggs and Don Hamacher named their new operation “Dog N Suds” for their two main menu items. Hamacher’s wife, Maggie, devised the coney sauce recipe that topped their “World Famous Coney Dogs” and Reed and Bell root beer was offered as the “World’s Creamiest Root Beer.”

Within a week, they had offers to duplicate their business in other locations, so they devised a franchising model that led to 650 locations by 1968. The $12,000 franchise fee included equipment and an 8-day training course named “Rover College” after the cartoon dachshund mascot featured on the stand’s logo.

In 1969, Griggs and Hamcher merged with the American Licensing Company, which made major changes in the licensing agreements with franchisees. As a result, many became disenfranchised and dropped the Dog N Suds branding to go in different directions. In an effort to gain a better reputation, the entire company was sold to Frostie Enterprises, the bottler of Frostie and Stewart’s brand root beers, in 1974.

Still, the number of drive-ins operating as Dog N Suds continued to dwindle. In 1991, Don Van Dame and his wife purchased the trademark for its nostalgia factor; his father had operated a
franchise in the 1950’s. In an effort to keep the brand going, in 2006 he began bottling Dog N Suds brand root beer.

Currently, there are 15 Dog N Suds locations, with six in Indiana and none in Missouri. Here in Historic Northeast, a Dog N Suds was built in the late 1950’s at 2504 E. 9th Street, but by 1962, the owners dropped their affiliation and the drive-in’s name was changed to Humdinger. The neon sign that featured Rover holding a tray with a hot dog and mug was modified just enough to not resemble a dog and cover the original name with the new name. With a full array of menu items beyond hot dogs and root beer, the Humdinger is still locally owned and operated.