The handshake is the first indication that this is no ordinary hot dog vendor.
Dean Parmenter’s hands have a rough feel, the byproduct of 37 years as a plumber.
But the physical demands of plumbing caused Parmenter to rethink his future and reinvent himself.
In October, he opened Deano’s Diner in Greenbank, hoping that one day he will able to put his plumber’s wrench away for good.
“I used to work like a dog,” Parmenter, 54, said. “Now, I’m paying for it. A friend of mine told me that I’d always be doing plumbing. I said, ‘Don’t tell me that.’ ”
Parmenter is aware that he’s only taken baby steps toward his goal of becoming a full-time restaurateur.
His eatery, located next to the Greenbank Store & Grille on State Highway 525, is very much still a glorified hot dog stand at this point, with a menu that consists of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and soda.
However, Deano’s Diner is an indoor venue with a cozy feel, limited seating and potential only as large as the owner’s imagination.
French fries are the next item in his sights.
“I got a deep fryer yesterday,” Parmenter said last week. “I just need to figure out how to cook them. I can always figure things out.”
It’s clear by spending only a short time with Parmenter that he’s having fun and enjoys interacting with customers.
He still works as a plumber on Monday and Tuesday and opens the diner only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Grilling hot dogs is nothing new to Parmenter, who’s operated a cart at various sites the past two years on and off Whidbey Island, including events in Chehalis and Leavenworth.
He takes care to steam the wieners rather than boil, then places them on a grill before serving.
Parmenter’s selection consists of a gourmet German sausage, Louisiana spicy smoked hot dog, a quarter-pounder-plus frank and a veggie dog, with prices ranging from $4 to $6.
Do-it-yourself condiments include sauerkraut, onions, cream cheese and a variety of sauces.
“I’ve been searching for one of these things,” said Rocci Gianni of Langley. “Whenever I come through here, I hit it.
“Deano’s a nice guy. I want to see him succeed.”
Gianni spoke between bites of a spicy selection. He was munching on a German sausage with sauerkraut, onions and jalapeños and lathered in jalapeño mustard sauce.
“I keep coming back for it,” Gianni said.
Parmenter said he’s been eyeing the location since it was vacated by its last tenant, Whidbey Rice, which closed after four years.
He spent time at the site in late September, counting the number of cars to gauge traffic at a slow time of year on the island. He counted about 100 cars per hour.
“It’s all about numbers with me,” Parmenter said.
During an afternoon rush, Parmenter had eight customers in his diner at one time last week, each interested in a hot dog.
His burgers are made from unfrozen ground beef. In the future, he’s looking to add tacos and soft-served ice cream.
He said it’s scary to try a venture like this, but exciting all the same.
“I kind of want to be done with plumbing,” Parmenter said. “It just doesn’t interest me like it used to.”