CONNEAUT LAKE —
Those are words synonymous with summer to residents of Crawford County and beyond, according to Juanita Hampton, executive director of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“They are known here and around the country,” Hampton said last week during a presentation of the 2013 Heritage Tourism Award by the PA Route 6 Alliance. The presentation was at the bureau’s office.
“They are truly iconic,” Terri Dennison of the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance said in presenting the Heritage Tourism award to both businesses. “They’re both third-generation businesses. People say when they open – it’s spring.”
The PA Route 6 Alliance Awards honor individuals, organizations, businesses and corporations that exemplify the mission of the PA Route 6 Alliance to protect and preserve the scenic, cultural, historical and recreational resources in Pennsylvania’s northern tier of counties, Dennison said.
This is the third year for the PA Route 6 Alliance awards with categories of Heritage Partnership, Leaders, Heritage Community, Heritage Tourism, Artisan of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. Both businesses on Tuesday also were presented citations from the Pennsylvania Senate by state Sen. Robert D. “Bob” Robbins, Salem Township, R-50th District, which includes Crawford and Mercer counties.
Eddie’s Footlong Hot Dogs and Hank’s Frozen Custard both have been in business more than 60 years along routes 6 and 322 in Vernon Township. Eddie’s is in its 66th year while Hank’s has been in business since 1952.
Tim and Christy Johnson are the third generation of the Johnson family to own Eddie’s, while Ryan and Courtney Hild are the third generation of the Hild family to own Hank’s.
Both businesses have the same general philosophy on the key to business longevity – quality of product and service.
“It’s consistency,” Ryan Hild said.
“I’m just following in the footsteps,” Tim Johnson said. “The foundation was already laid.”
That may be true, both Dennison and Hampton said, but both businesses understand the importance of tourism and the fact both are considered destination stops.
“There is a culture of ‘foodies’ out there who want to go to these places,” Dennison said.
“People know where they are and want to go there,” Hampton said. “We’ve had people fly their private planes to (Port) Meadville Airport and then go to them.”
Both businesses are known far and wide.
Each season, Hank’s keeps a checklist for out-of-state license plates – most years, there are vehicles from all 50 states.
Eddie’s recently began selling its hot dog sauce online and sold out 22 cases of 12 jars each in just four days. Sauce was shipped as far away as Alaska and Washington state.
Both firms have the fourth generation coming up as well.
The Johnsons’ three teenagers work at Eddie’s, while the Hilds’ children, who are a bit younger, help their parents with small tasks such as counting pennies.