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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 almost everything

Carl Galasso, owner of Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass., enjoys spending time with his customers.
Carl Galasso enjoys time with customers before working the grill at Fred's Franks in Wakefield.

Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 7/30//2018.

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It's the middle of a sunny summer day by scenic
Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Mass., and Carl Galasso sits with a smile on his face alongside happy customers -- also known as friends -- and 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.

Generations meet at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass., for hot dogs.
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 tenderloin 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 -- chourico and hot dog over sweet cabbage -- is a signature dish at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
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.

Synthia Ermao greets customers at the window at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
Cynthia Eramo takes food orders from customers at Fred's Franks.

Carl Galasso serves a hot dog to customer at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
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. hot dogs.

"It has an amazing taste," said Sean.

"We love coming here," said Caitlin. "He (Carl) is so nice. He remembers everyone's name."

Customers love the hot dogs at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
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 Galasso has a good laugh with one of his customers at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
Carl at work and enjoying time with the customers.

Darker times lead to better days

The happy daily scenes provide positive career and personal sustenance for 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 Boston about 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 of 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 different career.

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), Carl took 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 store food-related items and the truck.

Crowds gather at Fred's Franks food truck in Wakefield, Mass.
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 natural casing.

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 Galasso cooks a hot dog at Fred's Franks in Wakefield, Mass.
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 earlier."

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 Lamentations 3:22-23, "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 little faith."

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: Facebook fan page: Twitter page:

Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, Mass.
Lake Quannapowitt, directly across from Fred's Franks in Wakefield.

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Fred's Frank in Wakefield, Mass., is one of those food trucks I could go to every day. The hot dogs and sausages are amazing.

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