BUFFALO, N.Y. — For many people it is just not Fourth of July until you have a hot dog and maybe a side of French fries. That is why we took the trip to Angola for the latest edition of Out 2 Eat.
If you've ever been to Connors Hot Dog Stand on Lake Shore Road facing Lake Erie, you've probably seen Karen Connors Erickson running the show.
"I'm a Connors that married an Erickson," she explained to 2 On Your Side during our visit. For the last 78 years, only members of Connors Erickson's immediate family have run Connors Hot Dog stand.
"I don't think so," Erickson said when asked if her father thought the business would survive all these years when he first opened in 1944.
"I think he just built this small stand and opened it like July 1st, and his first customer was someone that he worked with in Buffalo. and he came and bought everything he could. Then it just kind of grew and grew. He had four sons, and I wasn't born yet. But his kids then worked here and it just kind of took a life of its own."
The baby of the family is now the matriarch, with nine children and 13 grandchildren of her own, plus dozens of nieces and nephews, also known as her built-in base of employees.
"It's still a family affair," she said. "We have four generations that work here. I have one brother left and he and I both operate it. He makes sure all the maintenance. I do all the office work the hiring the schedule and I work every day."
Connors is open seven days a week April through September. They're known for their Wardynski's hot dogs, self-serve toppings, hand cut fries, and milkshakes. But even on your first visit, you can tell this place is about more than what's on the menu.
"On any given day when you come up, there's somebody at the table that you knew from years ago and they want to share with you that they got engaged here or these are their grandkids they want to show them," Erickson said. "Many times, very often, people say I'm just in from the airport, I just flew in. So that's what's heartwarming. Those stories. That's kind of what you love."
She added, "I think it's the ambiance of the memories. I think they like the food I like to think they do. We all do, I eat a hot dog every day. But I think that it's the food, but I really think for them it's the memory. Like, this is where I grew up, everybody loves to go somewhere that they grew up."