Ever since John and Sue Wurster opened Cupid’s Hot Dogs restaurant in downtown Chandler 20 months ago, the couple has taken a mere 36 hours of vacation time.
That’s roughly a day-and-ahalf of free time compared with more than 600 days of work at the restaurant at 58 W. Buffalo Street in the historic district of Chandler.
"We flew to Las Vegas just for the weekend," said John Wurster, 58. "We just had to get away."
The hardworking couple — Sue Wurster is an administrative associate at Arizona State University during the day and works part-time at the restaurant at night while her husband puts in 15-hour days or longer — has the following proof of their success:
• Average revenue has grown from $3,000 to $30,000 a month.
• Number of employees, excluding the Wursters, have increased from 3 to 8.
• The menu has expanded from primarily hot dogs and hamburgers to include breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a variety of full meals such as fish fries, chicken and steaks ranging in price from $5.99 to $7.99
"We’ve added Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries to the menu ($3.49)," Sue Wurster said.
Bill Wurster, who for 35 years worked in the auto parts industry in Ithaca, N.Y., and was transferred to Gilbert in 1998. He and his wife learned about Cupid’s Hot Dogs restaurant, a franchise that opened in 1946 and in recent years lost business. It was offered for sale.
They bought the business and subsequently moved to Chandler, partly to be closer to their workplace.
"I always loved to cook," said Bill Wurster, whose father operated a grocery store and two of his brothers ran food catering companies. "I had a lot of experience in marketing in the auto parts industry, some experience in the food industry and we had a strong desire to open our own business. Everything seemed to fit."
The Wursters kept the 1950s decor which includes wall posters of Elvis, James Dean and John Wayne, a rusted, 1954 Arizona auto license plate numbered 20400-A and added some of their own antique pinball machines and 33-inch records.
"Our first challenge was to identify our surrounding market," said Bill Wurster, who not only cooks but occasionally waits on tables, coordinates dishwashing and, when he has time, sits and chats with customers in the 50 indoor seats and 16 patio seats facing the adjacent A.J. Chandler Park.
Their basic — and nearest market — includes the lunch crowd of students from nearby Chandler High School, office employees, visitors and guests from the San Marcos Resort next door and the older dining crowd from Sun Lakes, a short drive away.
"Besides expanding the menu, we’ve added a hot dog happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m," he said. "Customers get one-half off the price of all hot dogs."
No alcohol, thank you.
One customer, Bill Radebaugh, 83, has lived in Chandler for 45 years and regularly eats lunch at Cupid’s Hot Dogs.
"My favorite is the barbecue pork sandwich," said Radebaugh, who owns the Radebaugh Radio and Television store next door. "It’s very handy, and a nice place to have lunch."
Becky Jackson, president of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, said Cupid’s Hot Dogs is typical of the growth of independently-owned restaurants that are attracting more business, especially in the downtown Chandler district.
"Yes, I’d describe Cupid’s Hot Dogs as a successful business," Jackson said.
The Wursters’ future?
"We expect to continue to increase our business, upgrade our menu and attract even more new customers," said Bill Wurster. "And, yes, we plan to take a vacation — if we can find the time."
John and Sue Wurster
Family: Daughter, Amy Montanero of Baltimore; son, C.J. Wurster of Chandler and three granddaughters
Resides in: Chandler
Business: Owners of Cupid’s Hot Dogs, 58 W. Buffalo Street, downtown Chandler
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
Key achievement: Purchased a declining restaurant 20 months ago and have since expanded gross revenue from about $3,000 to $30,000 monthly
Success Philosophy: Learn the market, improve and expand the menu, provide good service, good food at reasonable prices and create a homey, friendly environment for your customers
Information: (480) 855-8343