Rick Atwell knew Bob Lange – known around Ripon and Manteca as “Hob Nob Bob” – for most of his life.
So when Lange called him and told him that his beloved Manteca hot dog stand on North Main Street needed someone with his business prowess to succeed, Atwell packed up and left Oregon to come home.
And he celebrated his third year at the helm of “The Hob Nob” on Jan. 1.
“I had been looking for a reason to come home – I grew up in Ripon – and when Bob called me it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Atwell said. “I had sold my car dealership and was looking for something else to invest in.”
But with the economic downturn, Atwell would soon find himself spending a lot more time behind the counter of the business he purchased as an investment – giving him the unique insight of restaurant ownership and providing the opportunity to get to know his customers on a personal level.
For the last three years he’s chatted, joked, laughed and jived with those who have come to buy his Casper’s hot dogs – a longtime East Bay staple – and homemade root beer.
The business gives him a chance to not only honor his longtime friend and Hob Nob founder – who passed away in April of 2010 – but to stay plugged in with a community that has supported his business during the hardest of times and allowed him to keep his doors open for the last three years.
“My sister always said that I did things like this as a hobby and not as a job, and that’s the way that I’ve approached everything with this business,” Atwell said. “I love the customers and the people in this town are just phenomenal. I enjoy coming in every day, and that’s because of the customers I have.”
Initially, Atwell tried to target local residents that recently moved from the East Bay – capitalizing on the fact that he’s the only place on this side of the Altamont that serves Casper’s hot dogs – but has since expanded his scope to attract new customers in and around the Manteca area.
In order to keep the doors open Atwell has had to put in some serious time – taking off only six days in the last year – but still serves everybody that comes to his window with a smile and the friendly demeanor you’d expect from a best friend trying to make you feel comfortable.
After all, the original Hob Nob was a popular hangout spot in Manteca when Bob Lange was at the helm. It only makes sense that Atwell continue that tradition.
“I love being a business owner here in this community,” Atwell said. “I give back to local high schools because of the support I get from this community. You have to give back to the people that help you. Without them, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
The Hob Nob is located at 1315 N. Main Street. The business is open through the winter Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Sundays. For more information call 825-2657.