It's about to get a lot easier to partake of "the hot dogs and sandwiches that people have come to love."
Mad Dawg's and Mel's, the 1950s-themed diner that opened six months ago in the Payson Auto Classics building, is moving across Main Street to the restaurant previously operated as the Mogollon Grille.
The move will provide co-owners Madeline Manchio and Melanie McCarthy with much more seating capacity and, at least equally important, a lot more parking.
Manchio and McCarthy are even picking up a roommate. Payson resident Joanne Colceri and her son, Jim Colceri, are opening Mother Hubbard's Consignment Furnishings in a 1,300-square-foot portion of the historic Journigan home.
Mad Dawg's and Mel's
"We've moving on up like the Jeffersons," Manchio joked. But the space problems plaguing their previous operation were no laughing matter.
When their customer base started to grow exponentially, both seating capacity and parking became critical issues.
"We did really well, but it would have been a lot better with parking," Manchio said. "We would watch people slow down as they went by and then go on when they couldn't find a place to park. We're gaining a parking lot that holds a ton. We'll actually have bus parking along the back."
Several restaurants have failed to make a go of it in the building, which was built in 1925 -- an era when horse races and the Payson Rodeo were held on Main Street. Manchio and McCarthy are confident they will be successful.
"We're not going to just own (the business); we're going to run it," McCarthy said.
"That's the good thing," Manchio added. "A lot of restaurant owners don't run their own restaurants. We're going to be here."
The duo, who met when they both worked at Fargo's Steakhouse, are already hard at work transitioning Mad Dawg's and Mel's from a hot dog and sandwich joint to a full-service restaurant.
"We're dropping breakfast, expanding our lunch menu and creating a nice dinner menu that's affordable for the demographics of Payson," McCarthy said.
"We're going to still do the hot dogs and sandwiches that people have come to love," Manchio said, "the barbecue pork sandwich, the steak and chicken Philly sandwiches, and Melanie's meatloaf sandwiches."
"That's the only thing I'm allowed to make," McCarthy joked "-- meatloaf and potato salad."
"She makes a great meatloaf," Manchio said. "It works out really well. I've done a lot of the cooking and Mel stays in the front."
The new dinner menu will include steaks, chops and pastas, and all dinners will come with Mad Dawg's and Mel's popular salad and bread bar. Liquor also will be served, but the co-owners plan to bring their ice cream machine with them and hire a combination bartender/soda jerk. Future plans include live music and pig roasts in the restaurant courtyard and the return of the 25-cent chicken wing for happy hour.
"We get the biggest wings you can buy," Manchio said. "It will be a wash, money-wise, but we hope to get people in here."
But Manchio and McCarthy say they will not forget what made them popular.
"We'll still offer our top-of-the-line hot dogs," Manchio said. "You can't get a better one."
"Probably our most famous hot dog is the Texas Pit Bull, which chili and cheese," McCarthy said.
The last day of business at the garage was last Saturday. Mad Dog's and Mel's plans to reopen at its new location no later than June 15.
Mother Hubbard's Consignment Furnishings
Colceri and son, who also plan to open by June 15, are turning her experiences as a kitchen designer and his as a furniture maker into the other business venture moving into the Journigan house.
"There's a need up here to offer some nice things rather than just old things," Colceri said. "We'll also carry some new things."
She plans to display her furniture in the individual rooms according to the original purpose of the room. A bedroom, for example, will be transformed into a nursery and feature cribs and other baby items.
Colceri also plans to offer some art on consignment, and will also encourage local artists to display their wares on weekends on the front lawn of the Journigan house.
"Artists can sit outside with their art, and they can also leave it here on consignment," she said.
Former Mogollon Grille co-owner Sue McIntyre, who still owns the Journigan house, elaborated on the concept.
"We'll have artists lined up at the fence on weekends," McIntyre said. "It has to be original work, and it can be music. We want to make it a real art happening."
Colceri moved to Payson six years ago to retire after living in the Valley since 1954. Her son is also retired.