What's cookin'? Uncle Al's hot dogs are back on the grill

Original owner's son will run popular cart at Big R in White City
Mitch Wells is reopening the Uncle Al's hot dog stand pioneered by his father, Al Wells, who used to operate outside G.I. Joe’s in Medford. The younger Wells will do business outside Big R in White City.Jamie Lusch

WHITE CITY — If you remember G.I. Joe's, the outdoor-and-automotive store located for 25 years in the Poplar Square shopping center, you probably recall Uncle Al's hot dog cart.

In its heyday, Uncle Al's was about as close as you could get to an undisputed champion of hot dog carts/kiosks/stands in the Rogue Valley.

Al Wells opened the stand and ran it for 13 years before selling to Jay Moore, who passed along the business to Dave Hart of Dawg Stop fame.

When G.I. Joe's shuttered in 2009, Uncle Al's became a memory akin to Dell's, Jack's and Cubby's, other iconic burger and hotdog joints that have gone by the wayside.

For locals who craved the sweet hot mustard slathered on Uncle Al's Polish dogs, there's good news — Uncle Al's is coming back. Al's son, Mitch Wells, will fire up the dogs on a cart at the Big R store in White City starting Friday.

The younger Wells, 39, has been working in the construction industry for the past six years, but he figured it was time to give hot dogs a go.

"I helped run Pop's cart years ago," Mitch Wells said. "I decided to come back down from Eugene and get into the family business."

Lunch carts and kiosks are ubiquitous in the downtown area and at many retail centers, so finding a logical location took the better part of a month.

"Being in White City, rather than Medford, will be different," Wells said. "But when I tell people Uncle Al's is coming back, they get excited."

One product Wells will offer that his dad didn't have at his disposal when he started 28 years ago is the Octoberfest sausage dog from Childers Meat in Eugene. The younger Wells also has added a griddle to the cart, allowing him to sell bacon dogs.

"We'll be doing canned sodas, too," Wells said. "You can't get the pricing you used to, so I had to change some elements."

Wells dusted off his father's old pricing board, and on Friday — for one day only — he will offer hot dogs for $1.50, jumbo dogs for $2 and sausage dogs for $2.75.

Going forward, hot dogs will sell for $2.50, jumbos for $2.75, and sausage dogs for $3.75.

Although warm weather, picnics and travelers coming and going to Crater Lake make it a good time to return, Wells said the business has no real off-season.

"We appeal to the sportsmen, because we're at a midway point for people hunting and fishing," he said. "But the advantage of being here is that farmers come in for tack and other equine needs."

Wells said his father and stepmom are tinkering with a longtime goal of marketing "Uncle Al's Gourmet Gold Sweet Hot Mustard" at local farmers markets.

"He still has that original recipe, and people love it," Wells said.

Uncle Al's will operate from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.

"My pop ran the cart by himself for the first 62 days before he decided he better hire some help," Wells said. "I'm pretty much in the same boat. I'm the man, and I'm going to run it until I get established and Uncle Al's is back."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.



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