A “thank you” banner spans the space between the fence and entrance sign at Brigante’s Snack Bar. It’s Frank and Dottie Brigante’s standard salute after a summer spent serving Michigan dogs and other grilled classics out of their trailer on Severance Road. This year, the banner hangs for its 28th and final time.
Like Vermont’s first robin sightings, the Brigantes’ trailer was the harbinger of warmer weather and longer days.
“People were eager to see us because it was a signal of spring,” Frank said.
Their lot sits empty now, but not a minute passes between Frank and Dottie’s arrival last week and the honk of a customer’s horn greeting the duo. The two smile and wave; it’s routine for them.
The Brigantes started their snack bar in the 90s after Frank retired from teaching and Dottie from her secretarial roles. The two had always enjoyed interacting with people, and Frank loved to cook.
After purchasing a trailer, the couple set up shop and grilled summer fare five days a week, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. from mid-April through September — scaling back hours and operations in recent years from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
“The Michigan dog was our most popular,” Frank said, attributing its success to a combination of spices the Brigantes crafted in their home kitchen. “Things that we enjoyed eating at home we brought to the snack bar.”
Though the couple never imagined their business would operate for nearly three decades, they enjoyed every summer because of the customers they met and befriended.
“They’re part of your family,” Frank said. Dottie recalled watching customers grow up through the window where she served them. One young man, she said, held his birthday party at the snack bar annually for a decade.
“It was a place to hang out a little bit,” Frank said.
Customers varied from young to old, retired folks out for lunch to businesspeople grabbing a bite and working in the shade.
Karen Paquette and her husband, of Essex Jct., were among the regulars. For nine years the Paquettes would delight in Frank’s burgers and famed Michigans, visiting the site almost daily the week it opened and closed for the summer. This year, Paquette said, the Brigante’s presented them a certificate for “first bacon of the season” since the BLT and bacon cheeseburger were the Paquette’s favorite Brigante specialties. The award signified the bond the Paquettes and Brigantes formed over their years of transactions.
“We’re so sad they’re closing,” Paquette said. “They’re just nice people.”
On Brigante’s final day, Dottie took down devout diners’ phone numbers to keep in touch.
The excessive heat this summer and the physical toll of the work helped the couple decide to roll off the lot for the last time.
“You can like what you do, but you can’t do it forever,” Frank said, noting the Brigantes aren’t yet sure what they’ll do with their free time.
“We’ve never had a summer, so this is going to be a treat,” Dottie said.
Though the truck will cater to crowds no more, customers looking to fulfill their Michigan cravings can buy Brigantes spice packets from local stores and make the famous sauce at home. After posing for a photo by their business’ sign, the Brigantes poked around the space where their trailer once stood. Another passerby tooted their horn at them in greeting.
“We’d like to thank [our customers] over and over again for coming to see us,” Frank said. “They will be missed.”