Fred's Franks/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
For Love of God, America and Hot Dogs
Through faith from a higher ground, Carl Galasso finds
career happiness at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass., after losing
Carl Galasso enjoys time with customers before working the grill at
Fred's Franks in Wakefield.
Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz.
updated on 7/30//2018.
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It's the middle of a sunny summer day by
Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Mass., and Carl
Galasso sits with
a smile on his face alongside happy customers -- also known as friends
his faithful dog named Logan. The beautiful face of America
resonates strongly with hot dogs grilling and people munching on the
cooked dogs while talking about baseball, cars, local events and their
hometown. Moms in pants and ponytails strolling their babies and kids
riding bikes across the street by the lake further help make the scene
look like something out of the 1950s.
The classic summer staple of grilling creates an
unmistakable aroma synonymous with the sunny season, as crowds gather
around like family to savor hots dogs, sausages and other comfort
foods. The scene indeed evokes simpler times when community gathered over simple foods, a few good laughs
and the chance to support a local, hard-working, straight-shooting,
friendly local small business owner in it for all the right reasons. As
a nod to the 1972 song by Chicago, it's like "Saturday in the Park"
here but in this case, it doesn't even have to be the 4th of July --
and the Italian man selling hot dogs replaces the Italian man selling
ice cream as originally described in the memorable hit single.
Galasso expresses gratitude for scenes like this every day at his
business, Fred's Franks, by offering hospitality to one another without
grumbling -- so common in a business world that often moves too fast
and impersonally. As the affable, talkative, colorful second
owner of Fred's
Franks, Carl bought the business in 2010 and grew the
modest-looking food truck into a wildly popular seasonal outdoor food
destination. Clearly putting his own stamp on Fred's Franks, Galasso
revives both the lost art of conversation with his customers and the
all American presence of the hot dog that contrasts with the Boston
area food scene that has often steered toward gourmet, high-end side
culinary offerings. He also lives the role - or "roll" (pardon
the pun) -- of one in the hot dog business with his encyclopedic
knowledge of the food and wearing a t-shirt like "Grilling Me Softly...
With His Tongs," a takeoff of the Roberta Flack song from 1973,
"Killing me softly with his song."
Located on Route 129 less than a minute off Route 128, Fred's Franks'
presence on a parcel of grass next to a parking lot adjacent to Lake
Quannapowitt makes this eatery a convenient food destination.
Popular amongst those enjoying a lake stroll, jog or bike ride (nice
way to replenish the calories!), local residents, employees from the
nearby office buildings, stay-at-home moms, and those commuting or
coming back from their travels on Route 128, Fred's Franks might have
no address but hundreds find the food truck quite easily every week.
Fred's Franks appeals to many generations.
It's also just 12 miles north of Boston -- great for Bostonians who
find it increasingly difficult to find affordable places to eat in the
"Hub of the Universe."
Customers order the ultra-tasty hot dogs in regular (1/8 lb.), jumbo
(1/4 lb.) and monster (1/2 lb.) sizes, hot dogs with pastrami called
"The Shaggy Dog," sausages with peppers and onions (linguica, kielbasa,
chourico and bratwurst
in small and large sizes), sirloin burgers, grilled cheese and chicken
sandwiches with equal affinity but Carl's signature "The Shnurble"
garners the most attention. Made with an all-beef Pearl Hot Dog, two
pieces of chourico, and served on a bed of sweet cabbage with mayo and
a special sauce within a fresh, locally-made roll from Farmland market
in Wakefield, The Shnurble could quite possibly be the tastiest,
largest and overall best dog in the Boston area. It comes in three
sizes -- the same as
the hot dog options.
The Shnurble at Fred's Franks.
Customers line up, meet the very friendly and efficient Cynthia Eramo
at the window to order, and then wait with bun in hand in anticipation
of the delicious food.
Cynthia Eramo takes food orders from customers at Fred's Franks.
Carl Galasso services a customer by the grill.
Whether The Shnurble of anything else, the second version of Fred's
Franks has gained almost a cult following. Many come here as often as
possible. Married couple Sean and Caitlin McGrath are prime
examples of locals who frequent Fred's Franks for the "Jumbo" 1/4 lb.
"It has an amazing taste," said Sean.
"We love coming here," said Caitlin. "He (Carl) is so nice. He
remembers everyone's name."
Sean and Caitlin McGrath are regulars at Fred's Franks.
Words mean a lot, and Galasso -- with the utmost sincerity and
authenticity -- has plenty of them for his supportive customers: "Here
you go brother, enjoy." "Thanks for coming, hope to see you again
soon." Beautiful day out there, isn't it?" Enjoy the food, my friend."
and "Good to see you" with a hug to a local senior citizen.
His employees conduct themselves in the same friendly way, too,
although, at one given moment on this hot July day, grill master James
Langill spoke with an edgier but good humored tone.
"Man with the shaggy hair, your order is ready!" shouted Langill.
"Whoaaa," laughed Carl. "Man with the shaggy hair? I don't know..."
Carl at work and enjoying time with the customers.
Darker times lead to better days
The happy daily scenes provide positive career and personal
Galasso, who, unfortunately, in 2008, found himself out of work after
25 years as a laser engineer at a company that is no longer in
business. Galasso considered moving to Florida, Georgia and other parts
of the country -- and even Brazil where wife Elen is from -- but either
rejection or something "just not feeling right" kept Galasso continuing
to search for the right job. Time was of the essence, however, as the
Galassos sold their Derry, N.H. home in need of repair, so they could
be ready to move if a job offer came about -- no easy task, however,
for a man in his 50s.
One night, Carl and Elen watched an episode of Chronicle on WCVB-TV Channel 5 in
people reinventing themselves after becoming unemployed -- many at
older ages -- by opening mobile food truck businesses. After watching
the show, Carl suggested to his wife about opening a grilled cheese
food truck business. Soon after that conversation, a neighbor
recommended that Carl visit Fred's Franks for advice. Carl asked a lot
questions when meeting Fred. It turns out Fred was looking to sell the
business and offered Galasso a job to see if he truly enjoyed working
in the food truck business before fully committing to a completely
Galasso loved the work, and found it far more meaningful than working
in corporate America.
"At my previous job, I got six weeks vacation and there was a sense of
being 'comfortable' but something was missing," said Carl. "I was
making $84K in my old job and went down to $8 an hour at Fred's Franks!
Quite a change."
When eventually coming to an agreement with Fred to buy the business (and respectfully keeping the brand name),
extreme measures to follow his new passion.
"I cashed out my 401K to buy Fred's Franks," said Carl, a Medford,
Mass., native. "I knew this is
what I wanted to do. God paved the way for me."
Carl, a devout Christian, said God's guidance and support made all the
difference in whether to forge ahead with a new career.
"You've got to have faith," said Carl. "God guides us through difficult
times. My wife and I pray and read the Bible every day. If
it wasn't for God and my wife, I don't know where I'd be.""
This is also quite a change from Carl's younger days when he used
cocaine and marijuana to deal with stress.
"One night, I thought my head was about to burst," said Carl. "The
drugs, too much use of inhalers for my asthmatic condition, Afrin, too
much medication. I knew I had to change."
His many years in the semiconductor industry, along with an evolving
belief in God, allowed for better, healthier personal growth. The faith
helped Carl rise above the trauma of losing a job, also.
"God loves us more than we love ourselves," said Carl. "Times were
scary, but I knew we would be fine. He redeemed me. God guides us
through difficult times. I came to realize that fear is false evidence
that appears real. Miracles would happen for us.... Like when money was
low, it seemed like there was always a check that come in the mail at
the right time."
Today, Carl and Elen live in North Reading, Mass., a nice semi
rural/suburban town north of Boston. Fred's Franks has experienced
growth every year through word of mouth and presumably, the magic of
The Lord. Carl purchased a trailer larger than the past one and has a
warehouse in Woburn, Mass., with a commercial kitchen and space to
food-related items and the truck.
Lines frequently form at Fred's Franks.
So, what makes a great hot dog? Carl knows...
For starters, Carl uses the Green Egg Grill -- generally
regarded as the standard for optimal grilling. He prefers using lump
coal and wood to allow for an incredible smoky taste in all the foods. Carl
helps the cause that much more by making his own sweet cabbage and
mustard. Other condiments include standbys like ketchup, mayo, diced sweet onion,
sauerkraut, relish and homemade siracha sauce.
Sausage options feature sweet, hot, Chinese, garlic and cheese,
broccoli and cheese and spicy Chicken and gorgonzola.
Carl prides himself as a lifelong hot dog afficianado, favoring
dogs made by Pearl in Randolph, Mass. -- an old-fashioned, Boston
area meat packing company in business since 1947.
"I regard it as the standard to which all hot dogs are to be measured,"
said Carl, of the Pearl Hot Dog.
Carl tasted his first Pearl Hot Dog when working at a local country
club at age 14, and immediately fell in love with the succulent taste
and the "snap" when bitten -- courtesy of a
When asked why people just can't make their own Pearl Hot
Dogs at home, Carl smiled and said, "I don't know, brother, people
always tell me that it just doesn't come out the same at home. We make
them with a lot of love!"
Carl, the grill master in action.
Follow your passion, says Carl
The road has been long for Carl with
some true challenges along the way, but he has
arrived at a special time and place in his life that he wouldn't trade
for any other job.
"I have been offered jobs in the field I was in, but said, 'No,'"
said Carl. "I like what I am doing now and wished I had done this
With sincerity and a total absence of holy roller speak,
Carl spoke of his gratefulness of being redeemed and the chance to make
others feel good through his work. As stated in
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to
an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
Carl lives by those words every day.
"A goal is to give people hope," said Carl. "God helped me through
difficult times. I know what it's like to be poor and I know what it's
like to have money... Hot dogs aren't spiritual food, but I can use
this as a way to make people feel good, enjoy the food and have a
Fred's Franks is
located at is located at Quannapowitt Parkway and Lowell Street,
Wakefield MA. Open 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (weather permitting) from March through November. Tel. (978) 818-0861. Web site: http://www.fredsfranks.com. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/fredsfranks. Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/Freds_Franks
Quannapowitt, directly across from Fred's Franks in Wakefield.
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