Waka Dog leaves downtown Mishawaka, moves to South Bend

At a time when restaurants like Golden Corral and Noodles are flocking to the Princess City, a popular hot dog eatery has walked its way over to South Bend.

Waka Dog Café, a longtime lunch stop along Lincolnway West in downtown Mishawaka, is now open for business along State Road 23, near the Notre Dame campus.

Owners Cheryl and Richard Copeland say they were looking to expand their business, but didn't have the means to operate two locations. So they took a risk and moved closer to campus; a decision that’s paying-off in dividends.

"We've retained our Mishawaka customers, the loyal customers are still coming here. We've seen them multiple times in the week-and-a-half we've been open, so that's positive. Plus there’s all the new business from Notre Dame functions, like people coming or going to watch the game," Richard Copeland said in between the Tuesday breakfast and lunch crowd.

The Dog Details:

On Dec. 29, 2012, the husband and wife duo shut its Mishawaka doors after five years of growing business plateaued. The new location, in the Campus Shoppes strip mall, had its Friday Jan. 18 debut to huge fanfare.

"We’ve had some of the Notre Dame football players come in more than once. They seem to enjoy our atmosphere and our product. They comment on our prices being really low. If you have a good product, you’re consistent and you really do care about your customers, I think they feel it,” Copeland theorized.

That consistency includes prices, which have not increased by a penny. The menu is also the same, excluding two additions: breakfast and vegetarian selections.

"We found out that veggie dogs and veggie burgers are options the health-savvy students appreciate, so we now have them on the menu. We're also doing breakfast, which has been a huge hit. Regardless, the Chicago, Coney and Slaw dogs are still our biggest sellers,” Copeland added.

The new digs include a modern kitchen, three times the size of the former restaurant. Parking at the shopping center is also more accessible than downtown Mishawaka’s street parking, aiding in increased business traffic. The added crowds have supported the frail economy: 11 positions compared to the seven prior to the move.

"Our customers all know who we are, they know us by name, they see us in the mall, and they know what we represent. But most importantly, we appreciate the fact they've allowed us to grow and be here,” Copeland concluded.

The Condiments:

Waka Dog Café is located at 1809 South Bend Ave., two storefronts down from Between the Buns.

The dog diner is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 a.m. until 9 pm., with breakfast from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m.

All local college students receive 10-percent off their entire purchase with a valid college ID.

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