BROOKVILLE — More than 40 years ago what started as a customer appreciation event became a legend in Brookville. Last week, the founder of that legend died.
Harold “Pete” Dinger cooked his first hot dogs in the basement of R & D Furniture on Main Street in Brookville, where he had worked for more than 30 years. The event was a customer appreciation day in celebration of Mother’s Day.
Ken King recalls that the store (later known as Galbraith’s Furniture) “would sell rhododendron plants for a dollar and give away the free hot dogs” that Dinger cooked. He said the tradition continued for more than 20 years and “there are rhododendron bushes all over this town, with fond memories of Pete cheerfully serving up hot dogs.”
As more and more people tasted Dinger’s hot dogs at the furniture store, he said he got many requests to do them for special occasions. He cooked hot dogs for open house events, birthdays, church picnics and “just about anything,” he had said. Over the years Dinger said he had cooked thousands of hot dogs.
About 20 years ago he took his already-famous “Dinger Dogs” to Main Street, selling more than 200 hot dogs on any given day. Adding to the flavor of the dogs were his special homemade relish, both hot and mild; sauerkraut and meat sauce.
In 2017 Dinger retired from his business, after cooking hot dogs for more than 40 years on a grill underneath a blue tent that people had learned to look for every Thursday morning.
The following year the Dinger Dogs were back on Main Street, under the ownership of Glenn and Brenda McQuown.
They are preparing to begin their third year, “with plans to reopen when we can keep our customers safe. We have purchased our local license for 2020,” McQuown said. “We will be very sensitive to and proactive to the issues of COVID-19 while keeping a presence in and around downtown Brookville.”
The dogs are sold “made to order or dress your own. We have 24 ways to dress a hotdog, a Brat (sausage) or a footlong. We have something for everyone. Want a gluten-free dog? Just ask,” he said.
They also offer sauces and relishes “to tide our customers over the winter or the weekend. They make unique gifts for those who have never had a Dinger Dog,” he said.
Keeping Dinger’s memory alive is a priority with McQuown. He was “faithful, friendly, creative, responsive, with a go-getter mentality. He was observant and skilled, doing more with what he had than many accomplish with a great deal more. He genuinely looked forward to greeting and serving his customers,” McQuown said.
Not only will the Dinger Dogs return to Main Street when permitted, they will be also be returning to special events. “Community service was developed by Pete and is a tradition we carry on,” he said. “Pete probably invented the MKT (Mobile Kitchen Trailer) without realizing it. MKTs serve our Army by being able to serve where soldiers go and provide hot meals. No electric, no gas, no water? No problem.”
He said community service sites include airshows, ball fields, parking lots and even remote locations. “We serve at retirement facility picnics, festivals and library parking lots. Tell us your need and we will explore how we can help,” he said.
McQuown said Dinger’s “quality of input will be mightily missed. We will keep Pete Dinger’s memory alive and preserve his stellar reputation. While looking for lunch, many people were looking for Pete, and we can never say thanks too many times.”