It’s been a couple of weeks since Louie’s Hot Dogs opened on Niagara Street, in what used to be a diner, and before that another hot dog business. Along with the reopening of a city location, comes many of the hotdog/burger joint offerings that made Louie’s such a prime time lunch and dinner destination back in the day (second home to Lance Diamond).
I caught up with Louie’s owner, Angelo Turco, a short time ago, to ask him a little bit about the history of Louie’s, and how it came to be such a favorite Buffalo hot spot.
Your dad opened the original Louie’s, right? What was his life like in Buffalo, before the eatery?
Louis “Louie” Turco was born 6/15/28 on Busti Avenue on Buffalo ‘s lower west side . His parents, Italian immigrants came to America in search of a better life. As a young boy, born during the Great Depression, Louie was expected to pull his own weight as the only male sibling. At age 5, he would hang out on street corners asking business men if they would like a shoe shine. Many times, he following the potential customers blocks to earn their business. Always searching for his next meal, he thought it might be a good idea to get a part time job at a restaurant, so he could eat a meal on a daily basis.
Can you tell us about his work ethic early on?
Starting off as a dishwasher at Lorenzo’s Restaurant in the heart of the city of Buffalo, Louie quickly began to make an impression on the owners. Although very young, he became head dishwasher and fell in love with the restaurant business.
After he graduated from high school, Louie travelled to Chicago and attended The Louis Culinary School and School of Hotel Management. After graduation, and returning to Lorenzo’s Restaurant as floor manager, Louie caught the eye of a couple of upper managers at Bell Aerospace, who frequented the restaurant and liked Louie’s hands on management style.
Louie was offered a job at Bell Aerospace, which had won government contracts to supply our military with equipment and ammunitions. While working on the assembly line, Louie was drafted to fight in WWII. After failing the eye test because of his poor vision, Louie was discharged and sent home. Louie, wanting to help the troops in any way he could, was then offered a cooking position and happily accepted. It was in this capacity he truly wanted to make food service his life. He would write letters back home and instruct his girlfriend/future wife, Josephine Argentieri (eventually Turco) to keep her eyes peeled for a building/location, because when the war was over he wanted to open a hot dog stand. After the war ended, and returning to Bell Aerospace, Louie and his newly married wife Josephine Turco continued their search together.
It was while pregnant with their first child Deborah Turco, that they found their location at the foot of Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, NY. In 1951 Louie’s was born.
What was the draw that made Louie’s so successful?
They wanted to feature a “footlong hot dog” which was unheard of at the time. After approaching a number of meat packers with their innovative idea, Flavor Rite meat packing on Niagara Street agreed to join Louie and Josephine on their journey. Their idea was an instant hit. They quickly changed their business name to Louie’s Foot Long Hot Dogs.
And the rest is history?
For the first 25 years, their Footlong Hot Dogs were served on regular sized hot dog rolls, because footlong buns were not invented yet. To this day, their family-run business remains an iconic brand in Buffalo’s past, present, and future. Louie’s and Sahlen’s Hot Dogs of Buffalo have been long time partners, with both companies attention to detail and family run business principals being their secret to a successful marriage. Beginning with the Footlong hot dog they created in 1951, to their hand cut curly Q fries, and their newest creation – Louie’s old fashioned Loganberry Ice Tea, the Turco family continues to creatively propel the long standing family business forward. We are excited not only for our own business, but to be a part of Buffalo’s future with the best yet to come.
Louie’s original location, where it all started, is officially open for the season at 69 Grand Island Blvd in Tonawanda, NY. Plus, Louie’s’ fans can now find all of their favorites at 1893 Niagara Street, including the laundry list of shakes that are served up in a flash. See menus.
Louie’s Foot Longs | 1893 Niagara Street | Buffalo NY | 716-877-DOGS (3647)