The former site of Dog House Diner at Home Depot, now occupied by barbecues and a children's workshop area
  • The former site of Dog House Diner at Home Depot, now occupied by barbecues and a children's workshop area
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Shoppers arriving at the Encinitas Home Depot over Memorial Day weekend were disappointed to see the Dog House Diner was gone. The popular 1950s-style food stand sat at the entrance to the store for over four years. Owner Sandy Cherman had to pull his food trailer off the property the day before the big weekend.

A month earlier, Cherman says he was surprised to receive a letter from Home Depot’s property-management firm: it gave Cherman a 30-day notice to vacate. He says his talks with the management company and regional Home Depot folks produced no results. The firm stated Home Depot needed the space for “other initiatives.”

Prior to moving, Cherman posted a sign on his stand to notify his customers that he would be leaving the site. He says he did not mention nor blame Home Depot as the culprit. Within hours of posting the sign, the Home Depot manager asked Cherman to take it down. (Cherman says the manager and store employees were inundated with questions and complaints from customers.) He says he politely refused to remove the sign.

Within days, Cherman began hearing from the management company’s legal department, demanding that he remove the sign. Cherman’s attorney advised him he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Home Depot’s corporate legal office demanded he remove the sign immediately. Cherman directed the numerous requests to his attorney, and the sign remained posted.

Cherman believes his eviction had nothing to do with his business, which usually had a line of customers waiting for his hot dogs, “Weiner Burgers,” burritos, and milkshakes.

“I believe the Home Depot regional people are really concerned about the new Lowe’s,” says Cherman.

A Lowe’s Home Improvement “superstore” will soon open just a few miles away in Carlsbad, on the corner of El Camino Real at Palomar Airport Road — at the site of the former Olympic Resort. The busy corner, across the street from McClellan-Palomar Airport, will also house a gas station, bank, and three restaurants.

National consumer polls have consistently ranked Lowe’s over Home Depot for their customer service and do-it-yourself product displays. Home Depot has stuck to their original concept: warehouse-style displays with orange industrial shelving.

However, Home Depot customers have noticed a drastic improvement in customer service in recent years, along with the increased ability to find someone to help them in a specific section and the addition of Walmart-style greeters. Many contractors and DIY’ers used to call the store “Roam Depot.”

Cherman believes that after 18 years in Encinitas, Home Depot officials want to change their image, which now the Dog House Diner doesn’t fit. Cherman points out that the new Lowe’s will have three national chain restaurants and suggests “[Home Depot wasn’t] interested in a local operation.”

The Dog House Diner was missed over the busy weekend; one customer said he would miss the Chicago Dog. “Sandy even flew in the special neon-colored relish,” said the man. A young boy said he always comes to Home Depot to get Sandy’s french fries with cheese and Mexican Coke in a bottle.

Over the holiday weekend, the stand’s spot was replaced by barbecues and a children’s workshop area. The Dog House Diner currently sits in storage in Escondido while Cherman looks for a new location.

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Comments

aardvark May 31, 2013 @ 11:01 p.m.

Many Home Depot stores used to have hot dog carts/trailers locally, but they have all disappeared from the front of stores in recent years. Home Depot is not all that concerned about Lowes, as HD has pounded Lowes in earnings and stock price in recent years. Lowes will open that new store, and within a year they will have massive layoffs.

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EyeJustAm June 2, 2013 @ 6:47 a.m.

For the time being-the store at College and 78 in Oceanside still has a Hot Dog cart..and trust me-working @ THD is no cake walk...

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speedman June 1, 2013 @ 9:25 a.m.

Both the writer and one who commented TOTALLY missed the point. It's not about signs, lawyers, competition, stock prices or earnings. It's about giving the customer a great experience when they visit a store. Dog House Diner did just that. They served contractors and families excellent food, provided GREAT customer service, and a fun place to enjoy themselves. That is now gone only to be replaced by more grills and some tables. It was a sad day for Encinitas and surrounding communities when Dog House left. Maybe some day HD will understand what they have lost and not just think about profits. I wish Sandy and his staff nothing but success and happiness in the future and know they will continue the legacy at their new home

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aardvark June 1, 2013 @ 10:21 a.m.

Perhaps my comment didn't explain it, but I DO get the point. I work at HD, and we used to have a similar emporium outside of our store. It was removed (we assume by HD management) some years ago. Many of the HD employees also frequented the business, as was probably the case in Encinitas. HD is not the company it once was, and this is another small example of that.

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Visduh June 1, 2013 @ 11:01 a.m.

One feature of the Tri-City HD at 78 and College Blvd was the hot dog stand there and its grilled onions. What a wonderful smell! And if you weren't hungry when you got there, you were when you left because of the effect that odor has on the salivary system. Odd in that I think that operation was still there as recently as two weeks ago when I was in that HD. Maybe the corporation isn't so concerned about an undersized, beat-up store like that one in a downscale area.

We can only theorize about the reasons that HD management has for kicking those operations off the lot. It seems to me that for a lot of guys (and some women, too) the hot dog stand was a good reason to visit the store. And, "oh by the way, I need a package of nails or screws or PVC fittings or a can of paint, and I'll get it while I'm there."

In some ways it is good that HD isn't the company it was in its years of rapid growth and acceptance. By many measures it was run very poorly then, and the growth masked the internal problems. So, when the two founders, Marcus and Blank, left the company and were replaced by Nardelli and his cohort, the place needed a lot of tightening up. However, Nardelli made a total mess of things, and one of his follies was going out and buying up a string of wholesalers which he cobbled together under the name HD Supply. (BTW, it is still around, but the Home Depot corporation no longer owns it.) Finally HD fired him and paid him over $100 million to go away, the low point in the history of the company to date.

I've owned HD stock for just about thirty years, and it was a wonderful investment indeed. But as a homeowner and DIY'er, I never liked the place. The help was often of low caliber, and no two stores were laid out the same, making it hard to merely find what I was hoping to buy. In more recent years, HD has become more of a contractor supply operation and is even less friendly to the homeowner. Putting merchandise up so high that a relatively tall person such as I cannot reach it is just plain stupid and thoughtless. But that's HD for you. Lowe's is much more homeowner oriented in my opinion. But Lowe's isn't doing so well on the profit front, and its stock languishes while HD stock is at historic highs. So, in the short run, at least, HD seems to be doing things right.

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aardvark June 1, 2013 @ 11:22 a.m.

As a 24-year employee of HD, I am torn as to whether to have a discussion with you about HD or not. I do agree with your last paragraph, at least until the last sentence. HD is doing things right for the shareholder, but not the HD employee. The Wal-Martization of HD continues. And it sucks.

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Visduh June 1, 2013 @ 2:51 p.m.

Agreed. I worked in that part of the retail industry for about a decade, and saw the winners and losers and how they managed or didn't manage their stores. It is impossible to know just how employees are treated, even when you frequent a retail store. As you reference by mention of Wally's, what is good for the stockholder isn't necessarily good for the employee and vice-versa. So my short-run comment was based on profits and the stock price and the view of the company from Wall Street. Wall Street is notoriously fickle. As a stockholder I'm not pleased that HD now seems to live and die by the housing market, i.e. how many homes are being built. Too much dependence on contractors, I'd say.

We might both note that there have been informed reports that Lowe's is getting ready to close their store in San Marcos, the one diagonally across the 78 from the HD. I've observed that it has a small fraction of the business that the nearby HD is getting, and I can't tell why. I've also seen Lowe's locations abandoned around the country, something that is really jarring to see.

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speedman June 1, 2013 @ 1:14 p.m.

What I hear and assume is that what REALLY matters is the bottom line...PROFITS FOR THE SHAREHOLDERS...who cares what the customer's want...They think by having a person greeting you IS, customer service. Twice, in the last week I went to that store and the one off the 78 and College. At the Encinitas store, I asked if they carried a partilcular item and was told my two associates, "we don't have that", when in fact they did. I had to spend 35 minutes finding it myself. At the Oceanside store, I went to the plumbing dept. and asked an associate if he carried this item...he said, "yeah, I think we do, if we have it it'll probably be either the next aisle or we don't have it" Why didn't he walk with me to help me find it? In both cases, their customer service, except greeting me at the main entrance, was horrible. The guy they made leave (Dog House Diner) should be hired by HD to teach customer service classes to the associates...They gave AMAZING customer service. The Encinitas store put up a big sign after DH left that says "we appreciate your business" It should say, "we appreciate making money for our shareholders" Wake up Home Depot swollow you pride and greed and ...bring back the Dog House Diner That will make a lot of your customers and many of your associates very happy

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Visduh June 2, 2013 @ 12:52 p.m.

There was a time when retailers gave at least lip service to the notion that their job was to create satisfied customers. Leaving them dissatisfied will eventually prove the retailer's downfall, but it takes time, often decades for the chickens to come home to roost. Of late, furniture stores have stopped having the furniture delivered by their own employees using their own trucks. Instead they "contract" with some third-party operator who delivers the stuff. But the contract they have with the delivery business prohibits the deliverymen from removing the old furniture that is being replaced. So, if you ask the guys to shift the old sofa across the room and put the new one in that spot, the answer is "No." The contract prohibits it. Why? Well, they MIGHT bump something or drop the old piece or . . . Recently one of the more popular multi-location retailers lost a sale to me for that very reason. Oh, they talked my leg off about why, little of which I would believe, and ignored the main job, that of delivering customer satisfaction. They seemed to find the notion that by satisfying me they would complete the sale, get a new repeat customer, and have someone who would recommend they to others, impossible to grasp. Now, I won't be back and will tend to bad-mouth them to other people who might shop there. Really dumb. But, oh no, they all were just "doing their jobs" as defined by the company.

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