Local woman changed careers and found joy serving hot dogs

EAST LONGMEADOW – Jeannie Reynolds wears a big smile when serving customers on a sunny afternoon at Heritage Park in East Longmeadow and hands over a fistful of napkins along with a hot dog, loaded with chili and onions. The Jeannie’s Weenies food truck is a labor of love for Reynolds, one which lets her embrace her passion for entertaining.

“I love to cook. I love to entertain,” said Reynolds, an East Longmeadow resident.

“I got thrown into a hard situation when [COVID-19] hit,” Reynolds explained. She was let go from the dentist’s office where she had worked as a hygienist. “I was too young to retire and too old to get another job,” said Reynolds, who turned 60 this year.

Reynolds said she and her husband had been talking about opening the hot dog truck for years. “We said, ‘Let’s go for it,'” she related. She said the paperwork and legal steps were the most stressful, but added, “The town has been wonderful.”

Although the business was two years in the making, Reynolds sold her first hot dog this spring, after purchasing a second-hand food truck and putting work into it. Reynolds had invested about $15,000 before stocking the supplies and the food.

“It’s going to be a learning year,” while the business finds its footing, Reynolds said. “I think I can go all winter long. I can serve hot soups and chili.”

Reynolds hand makes many of the items she sells, including her cookies and all the hot dog toppings. “I make my own chili, my own baked beans,” she said. The cheese sauce is store-bought, but Reynold adds spices to boost the flavor.

Jeannie’s Weenies serves low salt, no filler beef hot dogs with various toppings. Reynolds said that, despite not being on the menu, she can cook turkey dogs to order.

“Everybody has been so nice,” Reynolds said. She shared a story in which a couple bought a “Plain Jane” hot dog to split and returned 10 minutes later to order five more. They told Reynolds it was the best hot dog they had ever had.

While all of Jeannie’s Weenie’s hours are weather dependent, Reynolds has a handful of locations where the truck can be found regularly. She stations herself at Heritage Park in East Longmeadow Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 3 pm to 8 pm “I’ve got the best view in town from my office window,” she said, referring to her food truck.

Jeannie’s Weenies can also be found at the Farmer’s Market in Springfield’s Forest Park on Tuesdays. The truck will also be open for business, parked in front of Rest In Peace Pest Control on Maple Street during the summer concert on July 3 and the East Longmeadow 4th of July Parade. Jeannie’s Weenies will also be serving hot dogs at the Ludlow Summer Concert Series in Ludlow.

“I love being at concerts, listening to music and feeding people hot dogs,” Reynolds said, adding that it combines her love of music with her love of entertaining.

The truck usually is not open on weekends. That is when Reynolds does a different kind of entertaining, fronting the band 9 Volt Radio, which plays cover songs spanning the 1970s through the 1990s. She has been performing for years and met her husband and guitarist, John, through the band. He also helps with the food truck after he finishes his day job at Springfield Technical Community College.

So far, Reynolds is enjoying her business and said it is far less stressful than her former career. She said, “It’s been great.”

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