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After 19 years outside of Posner, Joe from Joe’s Doghouse moves on

Credit: Courtesy of Asher Blackburn Credit: Courtesy of Asher Blackburn

For nearly 19 years, Joe’s Doghouse was a fixture on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. Monday though Friday, smoke curled up from the little cart stationed at the corner of Margaret Morrison Ave. and Tech St. Sometimes, the red and white paneled umbrellas above the cart glowed in the sunlight.

Joe Colaneri of Joe’s Doghouse has moved on, and his hot dog stand has moved with him. He’s now at his new job, as a manager at the Jimmy John’s in Squirrel Hill. The hot dog stand has yet to see its last dog — Joe is planning to continue catering events here and there — but it will no longer be operating during lunch hours on campus.
Professors and students alike would queue for the food at Joe’s Doghouse daily. During lunch rushes between classes the line would get long. On a good day, Joe once estimated, he prepared around 150 hot dogs.

The selection wasn’t limited just to your standard dog. There were Chicago-style dogs, chicken club sandwiches, Kielbasa, and vegetarian options too. A bacon cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard and Lay’s potato chips was known far and wide as The Crunch Burger. But the best-seller by far was the Puppy Love; two beef hot dogs, a drink, and a bag of chips for five dollars.

The hot dogs were grilled — crispy on the outside but not overdone — like a hot dog should be. But what brought students back, as much as anything else, was Joe’s friendliness and easy conversation.

Tiffany Lai, a 2019 alum of the design school, often ate at the hot dog stand before her classes in the nearby Margaret Morrison Hall, known affectionately as Maggie Mo. “He was always incredibly friendly and his burgers were delicious,” said Lai. “Maggie Mo definitely isn’t the same without seeing Joe in front of it!”

In May, the School of Architecture presented Joe with an award for the school’s favorite hot dog establishment. Recently, Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian invited Joe to his office to thank him and present him with a token of appreciation from the University, according to an email from Jason Maderer, the senior director of Carnegie Mellon News and Marketing Relations.

Treating people with courtesy and respect is important to Joe, ever since his mother taught him to do so at a young age. She was “a single mother who worked very hard to work two or three jobs,” Joe said.

Over the years Joe served hot dogs to a number of notable figures, including Nobel laureates, college deans, and Hillary Clinton’s secret service, when Clinton spoke in Skibo Gymnasium during 2016 campaign. However, he said that he values his relationships with the students the most.

“I loved everybody there,” said Joe. “When I met parents that were on tours I always told them, you see, ‘I don’t think I ever met a bad CMU student.’”
Joe and his wife Chris hired students to help run the stand. Though most have graduated, many have kept in touch.

He started looking for other work because business during summer sessions has been slow in recent years. When he got the offer for the manager position at Jimmy John’s, it was an offer he couldn’t turn down.

“It is time for me to move on and find a different passion,” wrote Joe in a heartfelt post on the hot dog stand’s Instagram page, @joesdoghouse_cmu. “Thank you again for making these years so meaningful…”

It’s been about two decades since Joe and Chris were vacationing in Cape May and noticed the street vendors, setting off a light bulb in their heads: they should start a hot dog stand.

Since 2002, Joe has served food on Carnegie Mellon’s campus nearly every day. He worked the hot dog stand year-round, and persisted through grey skies, rain, and snow storms. So, working at Jimmy John’s is a big change for him. But he said that Jimmy John’s has made the transition “pretty easy” for him. Joe gets to work at 6:30 in the morning to open the restaurant, and his co-workers don’t want to be there at 6:30 in the morning, so “it’s working out pretty well,” he said.

“I have no complaints, but I do miss CMU,” said Joe. “I knew there would be some times when I’d be a little sad about not being there.” But right now Joe is focused on what’s next: sandwiches. “I try to make it a point that I live in the moment and I try not to look back.”