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.