It’s 11 p.m. on a weekend in New Paltz, with students flocking in and out of the party scene on Main Street. After a night out consisting of friends sharing a few pitchers at the bar or having a series of mixed drinks, the only options to fill their stomachs afterward were pizza and deli sandwiches.
Now, while members of the community and college students are making their way back to campus or to the bars, fourth-year students Abdel Barqawi and Lawrence Nicastro are opening up their hot dog stand business, Hawk Dogs, which opened during the first week of September.
Hawk Dogs is located next to Murphy’s Restaurant and Pub and is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
According to Barqawi and Nicastro, their stand has sold upwards of 200 hot dogs on weekend nights and they look to create healthy competition with other local food businesses.
“It’s a learning experience for us and not really a business,” Nicastro said. “We want to push other businesses to stay open late and also change the late night atmosphere in town as well.”
Hawk Dogs currently offers two options for their customers. A regular hot dog normally costs $2, while their creation, the “Big Boy,” a fully loaded hot dog featuring special toppings including their homemade chili and cheese sauce, served on a fresh baguette costs $5.
In order to prepare for an average work night, Nicastro and Barqawi head to Restaurant Depot to buy hot dogs, buns, bread, condiments and the ingredients they need for their chili and cheese sauce.
Most days, the two wake up at 8 a.m. after working until 4 a.m. and spend the entire day prepping the ingredients for the next night of work.
The co-owners noted their plans to create a second cart in the near future that features vegetarian-oriented food options including middle eastern-style falafel.
They are aiming for a mid-October opening, but are certain an opening will happen by the beginning of the spring semester.
Barqawi noted the crowds have been much bigger than expected, chalking it up to the market consisting of college students.
“We did not expect to be making the amount of money we have been making,” Barqawi said. “Some customers were like ‘I should have done this.’ It’s similar to how simple fidget spinners were and how people were like ‘I could have done this.’ There’s a difference between thinking and doing and it’s been a huge success for us.”
Nicastro and Barqawi discussed their post-graduation business plans, as they plan to graduate in May.
Both are members of the Entrepreneurship Club at SUNY New Paltz, which aims to give students the opportunity to apply the strategies and methods they learned in the classroom to an outside environment.
“Our long term goal is to get another two carts and put it under the wing of the club when we graduate,” Nicastro said. “We want students to learn and apply real world skills such as graphic design and creating spreadsheets before they graduate.”
An Instagram page was created in an attempt to “humanize the business.” They take pictures with customers to display the food and welcoming atmosphere the business provides.
Their social media presence aims to bring attention to their business and bring in bigger crowds.
“Being persistent is the key thing,” Barqawi said. “One day we can make a low amount compared to other nights, but we can’t that let that discourage us. Keeping our eyes on the long-term goal is very important to us.”
Their Instagram page can be followed @hawk_dogs.