Upon the utterance of the name “State Fair of Texas”, many things immediately come to mind: funnel cakes, turkey legs, Big Tex, the Midway and of course – Fletcher’s Corny Dogs. These mouthwatering “hot dogs on a stick” have delighted Texans and families for many years, following its debut at the State Fair of Texas in 1942. Over 500,000 corny dogs are sold annually at the Fair, and has attracted cult followings from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Emmitt Smith, Dirk Nowitzki, Mario Lopez and more.
This year appeared bleak however, as the State Fair staple and many of its vendors were forced into “Plan B”, when the announcement hit that the 2020 signature event would be canceled. However, with a growing demand for the legendary dogs, swift pivots, strategic partnerships and family support – Fletcher’s is thriving bigger and better than ever, with a future mirroring epically global proportions.
Aaron Fletcher, co-owner of Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs, sits down with Inspire N Style Magazine to chat all things “growing up Fletcher”, the State Fair of Texas, current cool collabs, and his plans to do more with the Corny Dog business in South Dallas.
Southern Dallas Magazine: Aaron, you’re pretty much behind the scenes. We always see Amber at the forefront of the brand. Tell us a little bit about your role at the company.
“My role is more of an executive role. I’m the overseer of contracts and negotiating deals. Amber has a knack for communicating and is very personable and likes to be out there. I’m behind the scenes – that’s kind of where I like to be.”
For 78 years, Fletcher’s has been a family-owned and operated business. “Growing up Fletcher”, did you always know that you would take over the company?
“Growing up, [Fletcher’s] was what I was always around. I knew it was going to be a part of my life at least a little bit. I kind of always knew I wanted to do something with it. I just never knew to what extent. It all just came together – doing this corny dog stuff. My thoughts were, ‘Why don’t you just take the company and try to take it into this direction that you want it to go in?’
There’s so many entrepreneurs and restaurateurs that I’ve looked up to and I’ve seen what they’ve done with their businesses and I was like, that’s what I want to do, and I have this business just sitting here — so why not?
When I was born, my dad was already 50 – so he was already settled. He was always down for new adventures, but as far as really looking at the business and saying ‘Let’s grow it’ — like the pop-ups and things we’re doing now – that’s things he really wouldn’t have been interested in because it’s a lot.”
Let’s talk about growing the biz. What are some of the unique ways that Fletcher’s catered to customer demand?
One of things I wanted to do was make [Fletcher’s] accessible to people but I didn’t want to oversaturate the market, so that was where we got the idea, (a year or two ago), for the food truck. I saw that we can get the corny dogs to people – it’s still somewhat exclusive – and it didn’t oversaturate the market. I wanted to create a year-round process.
By the way, we’ve seen the lines for the pop-up food trucks! The demand is definitely there and especially since the State Fair is now limited in what it can do. People still want their corny dogs!
“I’m incredibly grateful that people stand in the long lines – but I don’t know how they do it. (Laughs) Being out there in the sun for 30 to 40 minutes at a time…I’m hearing people saying they’re waiting two hours for a corny dog…well, God bless you!
We look at Whataburger and we look at Dr. Pepper and things that are Texas staples and we want to make sure that we remain in that conversation. We are doing that very well at the State Fair but I want to make sure that we stay on people’s minds year-round.”
There were many vendors who unfortunately were at a loss from not being at the State Fair this year, and many other business owners who were discouraged by the pandemic. What advice do you have for businesses or entrepreneurs during this time?
“Be open to new ideas and be constantly on the lookout for innovation. Additionally, be responsive to what people are saying because – (for us) for years we had people saying that they wanted Fletcher’s around all year, but we just rested on the fact that we had the State Fair. This has kind of forced us to listen to what people want out of us.
So many business owners get into this trajectory where it only has to be one way, and they forget that you can try different directions and try to get something else to work. You’re going to learn so much more about your customer base and what you’re capable of. We didn’t realize as a company how much we were capable of doing until now. Last year we were trying to figure out how to be one place outside of the fair and now look at us…”
The pandemic, the restructuring of the State Fair and social unrest within the community. That can be a lot to take on at once. What are some of the things that Fletcher’s is doing right now within all of these woven elements?
“Ensuring diversity within the company is a really important thing for me because being adopted and being a person of color – the diversity issue is very important. The majority of our employees are African-American and from the South Dallas area, so I thought that it was very important to have that different perspective in leadership and to always try to be able to communicate and have them feel free to communicate back to us the things that are important, and not think that they’re not going to be listened to.
Overall, I want to make sure that we have the best people possible in every position. We’re looking at ways that we can be allies out there.
One thing that was important to me is how Fletcher’s can do more in the South Dallas area, because that’s where we are based. To me, it’s really important that we give back to that community – and to find other areas that we can work on. If there are any South Dallas organizations that have any ideas on what we can do to try to collaborate or incorporate, I would really appreciate if they would reach out to us.”
Lastly, what’s in the future for Fletcher’s? You guys just did a major collaboration with Golden Chick (I’ve personally been twice to get a corny dog) — but who else will be next to catch Corny Dog Fever?
“In addition to our long-standing partnership with the State Fair of Texas, we are expanding our presence at Fair Park and will be more involved with events happening there year-round. Our pop-up events will continue, and we will be focused on growing our private catering in 2021.”
To find out where Fletcher’s will pop up next, be sure to visit their website at FletchersCornyDogs.com.