Sam’s Hot Dog Stand moves into old downtown Trolly Stop

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A sign announces the reopening of a hot dog restaurant at 121 N. Front St., this time as Sam's Hot Dog Stand. Photo by Hilary Snow.
A sign announces the reopening of a hot dog restaurant at 121 N. Front St., this time as Sam’s Hot Dog Stand. Photo by Hilary Snow.

A new hot dog eatery is coming to downtown Wilmington and it’s in a familiar Front Street spot.

Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is set to open its second location at 11 a.m. Friday at the old Trolly Stop site, which closed suddenly in January 2015 after issues with the franchisee’s lease.

Mary Piepenbrink–who opened the first Wilmington Sam’s at 5917 Oleander Drive with her husband, Tom Hissam, about a year ago–said a second location was always part of the plan.

“We had been looking for locations around Wilmington and downtown was one of our target areas,” Piepenbrink said. “It’s a high-traffic area, the heart of Wilmington. We have the target of the community college, government businesses and other downtown businesses, as well as tourists.”

Sam's owners made some aesthetic upgrades to the restaurant. Trolly Stop opened in that location in 1998. Photo by Mary Piepenbrink,
Sam’s owners made some aesthetic upgrades to the restaurant. Trolly Stop opened in that location in 1998. Photo by Mary Piepenbrink,

The couple has “freshened up the space considerably,” Piepenbrink noted, with new paint and lighting. Trolly Stop’s franchise owner opened the downtown restaurant in 1998 and it had remained shuttered over the past year.

Sam’s, too, is a regional franchise that stretches across the south and mid-Atlantic. It originated in West Virginia with owner Frank Lucente and now has 41 businesses in its home state, as well as Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia. In addition to the Wilmington eateries, there are two other North Carolina Sam’s—one in Hickory and the other in Morganton.

Piepenbrink, a West Virginia native, knows Lucente and said she was always impressed with the eatery.

“I watched him grow his business, and I love his business, love his product,” she said.

With a “fresh, fast-casual” approach, Sam’s boasts American-style all-beef hot dogs and friendly servers, Piepenbrink said.

“It’s very true to an authentic style hot dog,” she said. “We make our chili on premise; it’s a pretty special recipe. We make our coleslaw on premise. We chop onions every day…And cleanliness and customer service are every bit as important to us as the product itself.”

The downtown Sam’s will also offer up a new option for late-night eating on the weekends. The restaurant will stay open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

“There are not a lot of options for quick fast good food late at night so we think we can capture that,” Piepenbrink said.

As with the original Oleander location, the Front Street eatery will serve beer and wine.

Sam's includes a back patio overlooking the river.
Sam’s includes a back patio overlooking the river.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.