What’s on your hot dog? Diane Leatherman (Left) and Marco Pavano owners of The Mad Dogz
At Mad Dogz in Comstock Park, it could be anything from bacon to sauerkraut to…peanut butter? That’s right. When you order the Goofy dog you not only get peanut butter (your choice of crunchy or creamy), you get chili, pickles and crushed Fritos piled on top of your dog. The peanut butter was a customer’s suggestion, and owners Diane Leatherman and Marco Pavano “perfected it,” said Pavano.
The two were working as buyers at Meijer – Leatherman for 18 years and Pavano for eight years - when a friend who owned a hot dog restaurant in Rockford suggested the two open a similar eatery. Pavano helped out at the restaurant weekends, and when the idea came up, and Leatherman also started spending time there learning the ropes. Both liked the idea of owning their own business. “This is our first go at a restaurant,” said Pavano. “I like the flexibility, talking to people, not being tied down to a desk.”
Things fell into place when another friend had a vacant portion of a building at 3915 West River Drive in downtown Comstock Park for rent. The two opened the restaurant in 2009. The location proved successful with Pavano noting some twenty to thirty thousand cars travel on West River Drive in downtown Comstock Park every day. “This business had business the day we opened the doors,” he said, adding the White Pine Trail at their back door and Dwight Lydell Park across the street are a boon to business. “On nice days, people get some food and eat it at the park.”
The day they opened their door, there were nine types of hot dogs on the menu. Now the menu includes more than twenty different kinds of all beef hot dog sandwiches plus a veggie (soy) dog and a corn dog as well as sides of homemade coleslaw, mac & cheese, chili and a variety of drinks. They began catering a year after opening.
There is a plentiful variety of toppings and, if you don’t see what you want, you can make up your own combination. The menu is an entertaining read with fun names for the sandwiches like Lunatic, Yo-Yo and Bonkers. “People love to give us suggestions for names for our hot dogs,” said Leatherman, whose favorite is a customer’s idea – the Wild Hog, featuring bacon, onions, hot sauce, coleslaw and their homemade barbeque sauce. “We try, with the names, to stick with mad, crazy themes.”
Leatherman, who lives in Jenison, is originally from Kentwood and graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in communications and management. Pavano grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Central Connecticut State University in finance, and now lives in Rockford.
Both Leatherman and Pavano have children who are active in sports and have made Mad Dogz the go-to place for Comstock Park sports teams and coaches after home games.