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What ever happened to the Cool Dog, Ayo Edebiri’s favorite treat?




Wickedpedia

Bay Staters used to be able to get the hot dog-shaped dessert at Fenway Park, amusement parks, and supermarkets. Then it disappeared.

Cool Dog
The Cool Dog, seen here, has been getting renewed attention since award-winning actress Ayo Edebiri gave the hot dog-shaped ice cream a shoutout during a Seth Meyers interview. Courtesy Dan Weil

For the first time in years, Bay Staters were reminded of a childhood treat they loved for birthday parties and while at sports games, thanks to an Ayo Edebiri interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

The Cool Dog. 

For those who didn’t know what the award-winning actress of “The Bear” was talking about, it’s basically a dessert version of a hot dog — ice cream made to look like a sausage, put into a “bun” made out of sponge cake, with the option to add toppings like chocolate drizzle and whipped cream.

“The bread is cake, and the dog is ice cream,” Edebiri explained to the audience. “The mustard is chocolate sauce, and the relish is whipped cream.”

Edebiri had a tough time convincing the Seth Meyers audience that the treat was as good as a younger Ayo once thought, but in Boston, she isn’t alone in loving the hot dog-shaped ice cream sundae. 

“I will never forget how before the end of the school year they would treat us to Cool Dogs for dessert after lunch,” Bryan W. of Weymouth told Boston.com in a survey form. “Cool Dogs were the absolute best, and it is a core memory. I don’t know how a treat like this couldn’t survive.”

Bryan W. wasn’t the only Boston.com reader who hasn’t been able to locate the treat, which used to be sold at supermarkets and amusement parks.

It made us wonder: Where did the Cool Dog come from, and why did it mysteriously disappear?

Who invented the Cool Dog?

Peter Franklin, now 73, sells real estate with his wife Tara, 66, in the Cape. But it’s him who Edebiri can thank for inventing the Cool Dog in the late ’90s.

At the time Peter, with a master’s degree in business from Columbia University, worked on product development in the high-tech industry. His first wife had passed away after a battle with cancer, according to a 2005 Boston Globe article.

“I decided I was going to stay home and start a company so I could be with my kids,” Peter said. “I thought, ‘Well, what would be fun?’ Ice cream would be fun.”

He started brainstorming ways he could make the frozen treat a little bit more captivating, as opposed to all the bowls and cones of ice cream out there that already existed. Around this time in 1997, he’d also marry Tara, his now-wife who joined him in creating the Cool Dog and running the business.

Peter and Tara Franklin with a Cool Dog. –Boston Globe archives

One day, while dressing a hot dog, he thought: Why couldn’t you do this with ice cream?

It made sense to Peter: Similar to hot dogs, ice cream is a food that people were already customizing with various toppings, and for the cake “bun,” Franklin pointed to popular products like Chipwich as inspiration for how this could work. 

But it was shaping the ice cream like a hot dog that would be impossible, according to ice cream equipment manufacturers that spoke to Franklin early on. Having designed disk drives before his Cool Dog venture, Franklin wasn’t deterred.

“I put on my new product development hat,” Peter said. “What happened was I ordered hot dog equipment, and I modified them to be able to manage ice cream. It was difficult because ice cream is wet and soft.” 

And when your potential business venture is in desserts, that means taste testing ice cream and other sweet ingredients is part of the job. They started making cakes for the bun in their Concord home kitchen until they could move into a friend’s test kitchen. It was there that they nailed down the recipe: a sponge cake that wasn’t too thick, and a rich, creamy ice cream — the best ice cream Peter’s ever had. 

Then they took it to the masses, starting with taste-testing opportunities at friends’ businesses, like a clam shack out of Kennebunkport. 

“Actually, they loved it,” Tara said of their first-ever customers, who got a free Cool Dog if they filled out a survey afterward. 

Where could you find a Cool Dog?

When the Franklins felt they were ready, they sold their first Cool Dogs at the Barnstable County Fair. But it wouldn’t be until an amusement park trade show in 2001 — where food vendors, ride designers, and big name parks like Disney and Six Flags would meet and pitch ideas — that would lead the couple to their first break.

Boston Globe archives.

The Cool Dog was chosen as one of the best new products, giving them the publicity they needed to get into amusement parks and sports venues.

Like Fenway Park. 

The Lowell Sun reported that Aramark, the company that handles Fenway concessions, allowed the Franklins to set up shop to sell their Cool Dog, which lasted about a handful of years. 

What came next were deals with supermarkets like Walmart and BJ’s Wholesale Club, other sports venues, and amusement parks like New Hampshire’s Story Land. Though they were most popular in New England, the Cool Dogs could be found in dozens of states at one point.

Cool Dogs were even a concession option at the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, in a match-up between the Eagles and the Patriots.

“They put us on the Eagles side, so whenever we heard cheering, we knew it was bad for us,” said Tara, a Patriots fan.

It ended up being a night to remember, Tara said. The Patriots defeated the Eagles that year, Tara and her son watched the Lombardi Trophy presentation, and they even ran into former President Bill Clinton in Patriots colors.

According to the Sun in 2006, it had seemed the Cool Dog would continue to grow; Peter told the paper that they had finally made a profit, and they were moving Cool Dog into more grocery stores — and soon enough international markets. 

How the recession impacted Cool Dog, Inc.

So what happened to the Cool Dog? The Franklin family blamed 2008.

They were in the middle of organizing a deal with Dreyer’s Ice Cream, acquired by Nestlé at the time, in which the company would buy the technology Peter made. But it never went through after a wave of layoffs and calls to halt any new products due to the recession, Peter said. 

A Cool Dog with toppings. –Courtesy Dan Weil

Then they met Dan Weil, who had an interest in turning failing businesses into successes. Weil said initially he wasn’t interested in the food business.

“I was impressed with the creativity of Peter Franklin,” Weil said. “It didn’t attract me as a great business opportunity. I spent about a year researching the ice cream industry, and the more time I spent on it, the more interested I really became in the opportunity.”

He ended up acquiring Cool Dog, Inc. in 2009, tweaking the ingredients and keeping the distribution scope to New England. 

He got the help of his daughter Natalie Weil, at the time a high school student, and her friends, to taste-test the product, often holding topping parties to see which additions worked and which didn’t.

“I remember at home just having all the different toppings lined up, and me and all my friends would go down the line with our Cool Dogs,” Natalie said. “At the end, everyone would have these Cool Dogs that were stuffed to the brim with toppings.”

Weil made one significant change during his time with the Cool Dog, adding a chocolate drizzle to the frozen product that had been an optional topping when the Franklins ran the company. 

He avoided putting the treat in supermarkets, except for a few local options like Roche Bros. and Connecticut’s Stew Leonard’s. Cool Dogs also returned to minor league baseball stadiums in the area, like the Pawtucket Red Sox. 

Weil did get the Cool Dog back in Fenway, but only for part of one season, and his Cool Dog staff was only allowed to sell them using four hawkers. 

He still sold millions of Cool Dogs — around 2 million in Boston alone — but he knew in order to grow the business the way it needed to grow, he would have to approach a dessert juggernaut like Nestlé, just as Peter did several years before. 

“Nestlé was the largest ice cream company in the world,” Weil said. “And [they] told me they had never made a profit in ice cream, they had been trying to get out for years, and they weren’t looking to get into anything else.”

Boston.com survey on Fenway Park concessions. Boston Globe archives

Without the capital or access from a big corporation to grow the brand, Weil had reached the end with Cool Dog around 2015.

The end of Cool Dog

Some bad news for Edebiri and other Cool Dog fans: the treat is no longer sold in stores or at venues.

The only remaining boxes left of the hot dog-shaped ice cream sundae remain in the freezers inside the homes of Weil and the Franklins. 

“Some are worse for wear, but we did eat one [two weeks ago],” Weil said. “It doesn’t taste bad. It’s not what it was, but it’s still pretty tasty.”

Both families have fond memories of running Cool Dog, Inc., even if it didn’t work out in the end. And the Franklins have loved the attention lately around their invention, doing interviews with other local outlets after the Edebiri interview went viral.  

Asked if they would ever bring it back, or if it should make a comeback, the Franklins say no — at least not in the way the treat existed before. 

Peter has another idea of developing “mini kits” for people to make their own Cool Dog at home. And though they may not have a fresh Cool Dog to hand over to Edebiri, the Franklins said they’d happily send the star a Cool Dog t-shirt.

“We’ve had a ball. It’s been really wonderful that so many people have come back and told us all their memories,” Peter said. “[Edebiri] brought up the best of Cool Dogs.”





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