Connors Hot Dogs used to be a stand with a few picnic tables on the sandy gravel.
The Evans institution is starting its 74th season with its familiar grilled Wardynski hot dogs, locally grown potatoes and hand-cut pickles, but there's something new, too.
There's a 16-foot addition across the front of the building that enlarged the area where orders are taken. Condiments have been moved to a free-standing table in the center of the new room, which should ease congestion at the Southtowns landmark on those busy summer days.
A crowded counter hasn't kept people away from Connors over the years.
Tom Krzeminski remembers when the mustard and ketchup were outside. He grew up in Western New York and always made a few stops each summer to the stand. He and his wife moved to Cranberry, Pa., near Pittsburgh, last fall, but he was in Western New York this week on business.
"This is my first trip back," Krzeminski said while munching on a couple of hot dogs and fries. "I said, 'We've got to hit Connors.' "
You meet a lot of longtime customers at Connors.
"It was just a small hot dog stand at the beginning," recalled Joan Sommers, who has been going to the stand on Lakeshore Road near Lake Erie since she was 9 years old.
"That would be 70 years," she said while sipping a drink at a picnic table. She likes the new configuration, but she suggests it could use "one more grill, because they're always busy."
What is it that keeps customers coming back year after year, some making the 23-mile trip from Buffalo and farther?
The stand is close to the beach, it's clean and the food is good, according to Sommers.
"It's one of those places you have to go one or two times in the summer," said Marie Keane of Lancaster. "It's on your bucket list for summer. You've got to go to Connors."
She and her cousin, Gail Maurer of Boston, grew up in Silver Creek, and they were tending to family graves in a cemetery there this week. On their way back they stopped at Connors.
Karen Connors Erickson, who runs the seasonal hot dog business with other family members, said she thinks people keep coming back because of nostalgia.
"I think people came here when they were young," she said. "I think that's why people don't want us to change the building too much. I think people like the idea of sitting outside in the beach area and having a hot dog."
The stand is open from April through September.
"You can get a hot dog lots of places in Buffalo," Erickson said, but Connors, she said, "does say summer."
The stand was started by her father, Thomas, a Buffalo police officer, in 1944. The original stand was enlarged in 1952 and rebuilt in 2003.
Another addition customers will spot this year is headsets for the staff. That allows the workers taking orders to transmit it to the kitchen and grill faster, Erickson said. Food is prepared when the order is taken, not ahead of time.
"We aren't fast food, we cook it when you order it," she said, but she added, "We still want you to get out of here timely."
While the stand is modernizing on the inside, the outside wall is filled with memorabilia.
"That's my dad up there. He was a Buffalo cop," Erickson said proudly, pointing out a black-and-white photograph.
Two knives and the wooden tray her father used to cut pickles are on the wall. There is the hamburger press, used when they shaped hamburgers by hand, and round metal trays used to serve food. There's also a plastic cash drawer that was accidentally left on a roll warmer that was turned on, melting the change into it.
"People think we had a fire. We never had a fire," Erickson said.
Some customers think they remember having clams at the stand.
"We never ever sold clams, we never sold foot-long hot dogs and we never sold curlicues. And we never sold Sahlen's," Erickson said.
The stand sold Wardynski hot dogs for 25 years, then Frey's hots for 25 years until they went out of business, and then back to Wardynski.
Erickson said when she is at home, which is near the stand, and she sees a line of customers outside, she comes running over to help out.
"There's nothing I like better than working on a hot Sunday," she said. "When your name is on something, you try so hard to make things right."