For 50 years, Dog n’ Suds in Montague has been a local favorite and a huge part of owner David Hosticka’s life. Hosticka’s parents bought the building in the fall of 1965, when drive-in restaurants were an important part of American culture.
In the late 90s, Hosticka took over for his parents with a passion. “When I took over, I was going to make it my career,” he said. He spent many years renovating the restaurant from the wiring in the ground that connects to the menus, to the position of the building. The building once faced the opposite direction. Hosticka was highly dedicated to the success of Dog n’ Suds throughout his entire career.
Hosticka also owns the Muskegon location, making him the owner of the only two Dog n’ Suds left in Michigan. He renovated the Muskegon location, and he included indoor seating and what he says is the world’s largest Dog n’ Suds memorabilia collection.
In January of 2021, Hosticka was hit with news of health problems. “My situation is that I was diagnosed with heart failure,” he said. “The timing could not have been worse, and I made the decision to focus on my health.”
Hosticka’s passion for the generational restaurant had to come second to his health. “I was working like I’m 30 years old, and I’m not anymore.” Hosticka said.
With Hosticka unable to work in the way that he did before, and no family members with an interest in taking over, he is now working on selling both Dog n’ Suds buildings. He hopes to keep the two together, but more importantly, he wants the new owners to be aware of the important community history and cultural history of Dog n’ Suds.
Drive-in restaurants grew in popularity after World War II. During wartimes, rationing was a part of the war effort, and many families went without simple luxuries as Americans banded together in the war effort.
When the war ended, there was an economic boom that brought about a new culture. Hosticka explained that the cars from this time are classics, and with more disposable incomes, many indulge in the car craze. Drive-in restaurants represented a way of eating that was significant in showcasing the new American lifestyle after WWII.
In Montague, Dog n’ Suds was a place where high school students would hang out, likely in part because the staff has always been equipped with high school students. “It was a community gathering place,” said Hosticka.
Drive-ins were the original fast food restaurant, and the White Lake area had three of them at one time. Alongside Dog n’ Suds was the Nip n’ Sip and A&W, which later became Shortstop. These two businesses would eventually dissolve when a new business model was introduced in the U.S.
According to Hosticka, the drive-in restaurant began to fade out in the 80s. As U.S. life began to move at a faster pace, so did the people and subsequently the way they got their fast food. Drive-ins became drive-thrus. Hosticka remembers when McDonald’s and Burger King entered the White Lake community as a time of big change for drive-ins. The Nip n’ Sip and Shortstop didn’t survive the cultural transition.
“My father had no high school education, but in many ways he was a genius,” said Hosticka. “He knew we couldn’t compete with them at their game.” Hosticka’s father decided to stay true to the way they ran their business, not attempting to bring customers in by becoming more like a drive-thru. This, the location on the lake, and a loyal community is what kept Dog n’ Suds alive.
During the shift, many drive-in restaurants across the U.S. closed for different reasons, but Hosticka thinks that the business model is useful during the COVID-19 pandemic and could pick back up. “During the times when restaurants were closed, we were able to stay open. You could stay in the comfort and safety of your vehicle,” said Hosticka.
Hosticka is hopeful that whoever purchases the properties will understand the importance of Dog n’ Suds in the history of both America and White Lake. “I don’t care how long it takes,” he said, “ I’m trying to see that it gets into the hands of the right people.”
Dog n’ Suds also offers a historical element to tourists that visit White Lake. “A lot of people from different states grew up with Dog n’ Suds, but they aren’t there anymore.”
Currently, Hosticka and his real estate agent, Charlie Brown of Greenridge Realty, have a few promising inquiries.
“I’ve lived a very blessed life and the community has supported us for two generations, and it still is,” said Hosticka.
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