What started as a family joke turned into reality when Deb and Al Flanders bought a hot dog stand and opened their business, Four Daughters Franks.
For years, Deb and her husband Al, longtime Hopewell residents, had joked about buying a hot dog stand and selling on the corner of Nassau Street in Princeton as a side business. But after their four children started playing soccer, the couple realized something was lacking in their community. “We had to go to from one soccer field to the next because our children were different ages and levels, and there weren’t any concession stands around. It occurred to us that everybody’s running from one place to the next and there’s no place to stop and eat,” Deb said.
So the couple did a little searching, found a hot dog cart on Craigslist and began the hard work. They first had to learn about how to get permits, supplies and approval to sell food on the soccer fields.
The Flanders family came up with their business name in two different parts. “Four Daughters” comes from Deb and Al’s children: Katie, 19; Emily, 14; Amanda, 12; and Megan, 9. “Frank” is a word used to refer to hot dogs that was popular in the ’70s. “We also thought we would stick with the ‘F’ because of Flanders,” Deb said.
The four daughters have contributed to the business a lot more than just in name, too. “In those early years, it was all of us. I mean, everybody had a job, even the little one was like 4-5 at the time, she could at least get a drink, like, pick out a Gatorade and give it to somebody, so everybody had a job at that point,” Flanders said.
Selling hot dogs near the soccer fields was vital in helping the Flanders expand their business and attend more events.
“It was where people see you, and the more people that see you the more they talk about you. We started doing Cruise Night in the Boro and Hopewell Harvest Fair. We go to the Princeton University P-Rade during reunion, and the McCarter Theatre summer block party. We also do the Butterfly Festival here in Hopewell at the watershed,” Deb Flanders said.
With the full family’s support, Four Daughters Franks expanded to community programs, corporate events and birthday parties throughout New Jersey from April to October, especially in Mercer and Bucks County. They were also able to add more variety to their cart—burgers, chips, pickle-on-a-stick.
Over the past few years, the Flanders have scaled up their business.
“When we first started, we had this old 1980’s Ford pickup truck, and my kids loved it, but you never knew if it was going to run or not. We would hitch the cart to the back of the truck and then I would follow with our van filled with supplies and the kids,” Flanders said. “In recent years, we were able to acquire a trailer. But back then, we just had a red truck bouncing around with a hot dog cart hitched onto it with the Four Daughters Franks sign on there. We think about it and I laugh, but my kids and I were sad to see that truck go.”
Through events such as the Food Truck Friday (see story, Page 1), the Flanders have been able to continue and expand their business by connecting with their community.
“My kids see everybody that they know from school and there’s a band that we know very well because one of the band members is a local teacher at the elementary school,” Deb said. “We know so many people that come up to talk to me, so I really do enjoy that event. Food Truck Fest and Hopewell Harvest, those local events are my favorites,” Flanders said.
However, the Flanders appreciate more the “family” part of their part-time family business, specifically in terms of how their children have grown and learned from the experience.
“They’ve learned the value of hard work. Even the little ones, they’ve learned how to count change and make eye-to-eye contact. I’ve noticed how they’ve grown over the years, how they’ve become much more personable and approachable; they’re not shy to go up to people and engage in conversation. I think it’s been a really positive experience for them,” Flanders said.
Before starting Four Daughters Franks, Deb was a nuclear medicine technologist in Mercer County, and a stay-at-home mom that took care of her children, husband and elderly parents. Recently, she began working as a substitute teacher in the Hopewell school district. Her husband, Al, continues to work full-time as a detective at Princeton University.
For more information about Four Daughters Franks, call (609) 203-3944.