by Dan Colton
for The Beacon
It’s a common sight for many Sheboyganites – Sparky’s Hot Dog Stands, seen around at community events and on the corner of South 8th Street and Riverfront Drive.
But what many residents don’t know is the business was named after the Fourth of July, a holiday when more hot dogs are eaten than any other day of the year, according to Sparky’s owner Steven Hemsing.
Hemsing was born July 4 – “I was born during the fireworks,” Hemsing said – and, as a result, he was given the nickname “Sparky” in honor of the traditional fireworks displays that grace the night skies around the nation on that day.
“It kind of makes a unique story,” Hemsing said.
But with the coronavirus pandemic complicating the restaurant industry, Sparky’s Hot Dog Stands hasn’t had its usual full slate of community picnics and other events to serve their fare at this year. However, Hemsing said his sales at Sparky’s Hot Dog Stands, now in its twentieth year, have been busier than ever before since opening for the season in April.
“It has been a long winter, and a lot of people are waiting for our delicious hot dogs,” Hemsing said, “and there are less options for quick carry out foods” as a result of coronavirus-related closings.
Hemsing owns and operates the business with his son, Kyle, and they’ve taken extra precautions to ensure their patrons remain safe while ordering lunch, Hemsing said. Along with creating markers to remind people to social distance while in line and keeping surfaces sanitized, the patio tables and chairs near the riverfront stand have been taken down, at least for the time being.
Hemsing said they’ve also refrained from joining in the Monday night food truck events at Vollrath Park and haven’t set up shop the Sheboygan farmer’s market in order to avoid large gatherings.
But while there are less opportunities to snag a hot dog from Sparky’s Hot Dog Stands, that doesn’t mean anything else has changed. Hemsing said their roller-grilled franks are still as tasty as ever, with the loaded Chicago-style hot dog remaining at the top as their best-seller.
“We still sell quite a few hot dogs because we’re known as the place to go for hot dogs because of how long we’ve been in business and how good they are,” Hemsing said.
Hemsing said he started Sparky’s in 2001, and for six years it catered to special events in the area.
Then, in 2007, the permanent stand was established. Ever since, it’s been a popular stop for hungry residents and visitors to Sheboygan, and Sparky’s Hot Dog Stands has been voted as Sheboygan’s favorite hot dog multiple years.
To keep up with expectations, Hemsing hopes to have his patio seating back out shortly after the July 4 holiday, although he said the timeline is not set in stone.
“It’s really kind of day-by-day to see where we’re at with the virus because we do work closely with the Sheboygan County Health Department regarding their feelings on what a restaurant should and should not be doing,” Hemsing said.
Whether or not Sparky’s gets back to full-tilt this summer, Hemsing said his motivation remains the same – bringing tasty, classic American food to people in the area.
And if you’re at the stand and enjoying your lunch – perhaps on the Fourth of July – make sure to let Hemsing know.
“That’s what makes the business really worthwhile, the comments that we get,” he said.
Sparky’s is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.