Cart and Soul

Catching up with Puppy Love Hot Dogs owner Gretchen Peters as the iconic Concord cart celebrates 40 years in downtown Concord.

Pete and Jo Goodwin started Puppy Love Hot Dogs in 1976 with a little pushcart in downtown Plymouth. They expanded the business to Main Street in Concord in 1978 with the pickup truck setup (and, eventually, a small storefront spot for winter months). Their daughter, Gretchen Peters, took over when they retired in 2005. This year, its 40th in downtown Concord, Puppy Love was honored with a Yankee Magazine Editors’ Choice as Best Hot Dogs in New Hampshire.

  • I know many of my customers by name and many more by what they get on their hot dogs.
  • A great hot dog is perfectly steamed and served on a warm hot dog bun.
  • Our most popular order? Mustard, relish and onions.
  • My personal favorite is chili, cheese and onions.
  • We don’t feel the need to shake things up. Customers appreciate the consistency, simplicity and efficiency of the Puppy Love experience.
  • The biggest change that has taken place has been the ability to accept credit card payments with a mobile device.
  • Also, we created a website and have a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • The most famous person to buy a Puppy Love hot dog was Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. He had mustard, relish and onions.
  • The food truck craze has definitely made more people curious about starting their own food truck business. I get a lot of questions about my setup and what it’s like to run a small business.
  • I’ve noticed an increase in gluten sensitivity, so some customers order their hot dogs without the bun.
  • The wildest thing I’ve seen happen? During Market Days 2013, we experienced a microburst that swept down Main Street overnight and damaged many vendors’ tents.
  • The local community banded together to help clean up, and the event carried on the next morning.
  • Never tried to estimate the number of hot dogs we’ve sold, but we’re definitely still chasing McDonald’s.
  • My husband and I are big foodies and craft beer fans.
  • We like Angelina’s in Concord, and when we travel north we like to go to Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton.

Forty years is a long time to do anything, let along make hot dogs and serve them with chips and a drink, but the staff at Puppy Love have no complaints. Maybe there’s more variety to the job than you imagine. If you take just eight common toppings: mustard, ketchup, onions, relish, chili, cheese, spicy mustard and sauerkraut, there are 40,320 different possible combinations, but Gretchen still remembers exactly what most of her regulars want even before they ask. (Photo at left is a few of those variations from a recent Puppy Love Hot Dogs Facebook post.)


Categories: Q&A