By Ela Bernal
How do you decrease cost while maintaining the quality of a hot dog?
This is the biggest question restaurant owner Cary Earle has faced since opening Earlez Grille hot dog stand in Crenshaw almost 30 years ago.
The answer, he has found, is simplicity.
Today Earle operates his 4,000-square-foot hot dog joint at the busy intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Exposition Drive.
With a new metro station set to open at the intersection, the land Earle’s business sits on will soon be bought for more Metro development and the popular hot dog stand will be forced to move.
“I’m actually looking forward to it,” said Earle. “Four thousand square feet is a big space and we’ve been waiting for a while.”
Earle said he has known about the move for two years.
“Each time they say in six months and nothing happens so they say another six months,” Earle said. “Still nothing.”
The property is one of several in the area that have been selected by the Crenshaw/LAX Transit project to be purchased for building one of six new Metro stops, according to Olga Lopez, community relations manager for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit corridor.
“All six will include public art and convenient access for the disabled to serve everyone in the different areas of Los Angeles,” said Lopez, who wasn’t able to divulge the other properties that would be bought.
Metro expects the project to be completed and opened by 2018. Properties can be purchased any time before that.
With such an uncertain move-out date, Earle says he hasn’t done much yet to pinpoint an exact location for the new restaurant.
However, when the day does come, the restaurant won’t be going far. “I’d like to stay within 15 minutes from this area,” said Earle.
Michael Jones, president of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce, hopes the beloved hot dog stand won’t move out of the neighborhood.
“Earlez is a certainly a popular place,” Jones said. “A lot of people like to go there and for that reason it’s become a very important part of our community.”
Jones said Earlez Grille’s success is remarkable considering Earle’s lack of formal business training.
“He’s now had years of experience and part of their success is definitely the fact that Cary and his brother and mother do a good job as a team,” Jones said.
Earle had the idea to start a hot dog stand along with his brother and mother. Since then he hasn’t taken any classes, simply relying on his quick learning skills.
“It’s all on the fly,” laughed Earle, who admits he still has a lot more to learn.
“We business owners without any formal business training tend to neglect paperwork and paperwork is important,” said Earle, adding he intends to go back to school in the near future to get the training he feels he is lacking.
In the meantime, though, Earle simply wants to get back to his original dream of a simple hot dog stand.
“When we first came to this location we had to add in a lot of extra stuff to fill up such a big space,” said Earle.
By extra stuff, Earle means menu items. When Earle began the restaurant with his mother, Mildred Earle, and his brother Duane Earle, in 1983, he envisioned a simple hot dog stand.
But when Earlez moved from a 300-square-foot building to their current location five years ago, Earle found himself with a whole lot more than he had before.
“We had all this space so we had to make our business fit it. Now we’re out here selling tamales,” said Earle.
Earlez’ daily menu also includes pastrami sandwiches, salmon burgers, and cobbler.
Once the move is finalized, Earle wants to go back to the basics.
“Think of the best burger joint you know. It’s In-N-Out. They’ve got it down because they’re very simple- only four things on the menu,” said Earle. “I’d like to be like In-N-Out, but of hot dogs.”