PLATTSBURGH — Ronnie’s Michigan Stand dates back more than 70 years, but says the Town of Plattsburgh’s Michigan Passport led some new faces to its teeny Route 3 food stop this year.
“It definitely brought us a lot of new customers, which was phenomenal,” Monique Worley, Ronnie’s manager, said. “It was a wonderful program. We’re very grateful to have been a part of it.”
The Michigan Passport has nothing to do with entering the State of Michigan and everything to do with meat sauce-smothered dogs dressed with mustard and (sometimes buried) onions.
Passports drove participants to four Town of Plattsburgh-based stands to taste the various Michigan dog recipes and get their passport stamped at each location.
Joining Ronnie’s was Gus’ Red Hots, Clare & Carl’s Hot Dog Stand and McSweeney’s Red Hots (all locations).
The first 25 participants to return a completed passport received a t-shirt and all participants earned a Michigan bumper sticker.
The challenge was active throughout July, which town officials declared Michigan Month, and passports were due back to the Town Hall by Friday, Aug. 6.
‘BURIED’ IN CULTURE
The Michigan dog is a North Country delicacy with roots no one can seem to put their finger on.
No matter where it started, Plattsburgh Town Supervisor Michael Cashman believed the savory treat was “buried in the culture of Plattsburgh” and compared it to regional delicacies outside of upstate New York.
“I compare it to where I grew up in Cape Cod, Mass.,” he said. “The Cape is known for the lobster. In New York, Buffalo is known for its chicken wings and Rochester for its Garbage plate. The Michigan is already a part of our identity here.”
He noted an August visit by social media influencer Kristen Hampton with Good News, whose video eating a Clare & Carl’s Michigan blew up online, receiving 21,000 likes and raising a tip of more than $8,000 for restaurant staff.
“This is an opportunity for us to celebrate a piece of who we are,” Cashman said, “but it’s also an opportunity for us to serve up a piece of who we are to people who might not have experienced it before.”
GOOD RONNIE’S YEAR
Ronnie’s Michigan Stand serves up classic summertime grub, like the North Country’s Michigan dog, and is open seasonally from June through October.
“Oh, we started seeing (passports) the day before it started,” Worley said. “There were a lot of first time customers who had never even tried our Michigans; they loved them. They thought they were different than the others, because they’re not spicy.”
The manager, whose family has owned the stand for nearly 35 years, couldn’t put a number on how many passports she saw.
“A lot of customers were doing them all in one day and saving us for last, because we’re near the Town Hall. There were people from out of the area trying all of the Michigans and getting a big kick out of it.”
Worley said it was hard to say what impact the passport had on Michigan sales, specifically.
Having the eatery’s dining room open again, something that was missing in 2020, was a welcomed change for customers, she said.
“This year, our numbers are greater than 2019, so we’re definitely doing very well. I think people are just tired of being inside and feel really comfortable and safe here.”
Cashman said the town printed 300 Michigan Passports.
“All of those were used. Of the 300 passports, 73 of them came back to Town Hall.”
Though a comparatively low figure, he thought it worth noting the t-shirt incentive was only for the first batch.
“I went out and about throughout the month of July and I engaged with people who said, ‘I know that there’s not an opportunity for a free t-shirt, but I was waiting for my cousin to come into town so that we could do this together,'” he said. “Those people kept their passports.
“We know that hundreds of people participated in this program.”
And he said many were encouraged to try a dog outside of their go-to spot.
“That’s what we were hoping for — cross pollinations to just support local.”
MICHIGAN MONTH 2022
Cashman said the town team already launched work on Michigan Month 2022.
“We’re going to be reviewing the success that we’ve had this year and build upon it each year,” he said. “Part of this is going to be in steps. I’ll be very frank — pun intended — that I would love to be able to see some type of festival in the future, but I don’t think that will be next year.”
Still, the town has other hot dog-themed fun planned for next summer.
“It’s a little bit of a tease, but we do have some additions planned for next year. Some of the things that we have in store, I think, people are really going to enjoy.”
Email McKenzie Delisle: