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Hot Dog Stand Becomes Mainstay On Ridgefield's Main Street

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – For 35 years at Main and Prospect streets in Ridgefield, the Chez Lenard hot dog cart has filled the stomachs of hungry passersby. And Michael Principi hopes to keep doing so for the rest of his life.

“This hot dog stand is older than I,” said Principi, a born and raised Ridgefield resident. It came into his possession when his former boss, Chad Cohen, called him in 2006 and asked whether he wanted to buy the business. Which he did in 2007.

After working at the stand during high school and college, Principi knew the business. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to own it until he got laid off from his corporate job. Principi has taken to it like a Hebrew National hot dog in a Martin's potato bun.

The business isn’t just about the corner stand. Principi does half of his business on his two other carts that are taken to parties and corporate affairs.

“I feel like I could do it forever,” Principi said. “It’s a lot, though.” After working 70 to 80 hours a week for 300 days of the year, he admitted he needs some time off and generally closes for a month or two during the winter. And after recently getting married, that time off is important. 

If you have stopped to have a hot dog there, chances are you have heard that Martha Stewart loves the stand. In her 2009 hot dog-themed show, she said, “Make sure everybody to go to Ridgefield, Connecticut,” to try the dogs. The stand has also made "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," Principi said, for the last several years.

“It appeals to all ages. So the kids obviously love it, but oftentimes it’s the adults who appreciate the menu the most,” Principi said. And with hot dogs named “Le hot dog Choucroute Alsascienne et Garniture Suisse” it’s easy to understand why. The original owner, Lenard Des Lescinskis, brought a French-Swiss flare to the hot dogs and the menu has remained relatively unchanged since 1978.

Principi’s favorite? “My hot dog of choice is the  Choucroute Alsacienne, mustard, sauerkraut, and I love a shake of crushed red pepper.”

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