This article is part of Business Buzz, a series designed to feature small businesses that make a big impact on the community. Participants featured will include the locally-owned businesses that make up the fabric of Big Rapids and the surrounding area.

BIG RAPIDS — In the five months since doors opened for the first time, Fatty C’s Dog House has quickly become a staple in Big Rapids.

During this time, owners Kacey Thompson-Agee and her husband Bernard Agee have learned a lot about themselves, not only as restaurateurs, but as a burgeoning new pillar of a welcoming and thankful community.

It has also become apparent to the folks at Fatty C’s that they have been serving up more than just hot dogs to their growing, appreciative customer base.

Opening and eventually operating the restaurant has been a constantly evolving process for the couple. In addition, it’s one they expect will continue to evolve as time goes on.

“This building has never had a functioning restaurant before and it’s never been stress-tested,” Thompson-Agee said. “Over the last few months, we’ve been able to bring in new equipment and test out different types of operational procedures, just so we’re here for our customers when they want and need us.”

As the months have passed, they’ve tested out different store hours and ultimately decided to open for a few hours on Saturdays as well.

In doing so, Thompson-Agee said she has gotten a pretty good feel of overall migration and foot traffic from Big Rapids residents and people stopping through at various times of the day.

On top of this, Fatty C’s officially became a DoorDash restaurant and is accepting orders as of this week.

“We’re really excited to introduce that as another avenue for customers,” she said.

As Thompson-Agee puts it, she’s learned plenty of new things since her restaurant first opened, but was humble in admitting that she still has a lot of learning still left to do.

Opening a restaurant during a pandemic was not an easy task, which Thompson-Agee said was a significant factor in some of the learning curves she and her staff have experienced.

“Are we smarter than we were five months ago? Definitely. We definitely know much more about the operations,” Thompson-Agee said. “But, are we to a point where we think we have it all figured out? Absolutely not.

“Think about COVID — that changed the way customers interacted with restaurants,” she added. “We came in on the tail end of that. It’s just a really interesting time for everyone.”

Through the many ups and downs of owning and operating a restaurant, coupled with the unforeseen hardships brought on by the pandemic, the customers have remained loyal and hungry throughout it all.

From posts shared on social media, to positive reviews and revolving door of returning and first-time customers, the folks at Fatty C’s continue to be blessed by an appreciative town of hot dog lovers.

“For the most part, the customers have been incredibly awesome,” Thompson-Agee said. “The personal connections are what we’re trying to build here. We fist-bump like 75% of our customers because we know them and they know us.”

Thompson-Agee said it’s these personal connections that sets Fatty C’s apart from the rest of the pack.

During the summer, Fatty C’s employed some local high school students, and with classes in session at Ferris State University, they have brought on some Bulldog helpers for the fall.

As it stands, Fatty C’s employs four Ferris students and two others.

“I think our success in hiring is that we’ve been looking at the person and the passion in the person,” Thompson-Agee said. “We’ve had some really great luck with some really good people working here. We’re so thankful and blessed to have a great crew.”

Those that work at the restaurant are viewed, not as employees, but rather as part of the Fatty C’s family.

That is precisely how Thompson-Agee and her husband want to operate moving forward.

“I don’t know if we have one employee who checks out at the end of the day — we literally have to kick them out the door sometimes,” Thompson-Agee said. “That’s just the environment we try to instill.”

Looking ahead to the future, the underlying goal is for Fatty C’s to become even more ingrained in part of the culture of Big Rapids.

Thompson-Agee said they still see a fair number of new customers on a weekly basis and would one day love to see her restaurant become a household name across town.

“We just want to have that name become more of a common notion, so if you think of Big Rapids, you think of Fatty C’s,” Thompson-Agee said. “That’s kind of our ultimate goal.”

Bernard Agee said he doesn’t know what the next step or two might bestow upon the restaurant, but he knows it’s going to continue to evolve and get even bigger.

It’s all about taking the name even further and giving everyone an idea of what it represents.

“I don’t even think any of us have seen Fatty C’s evolve into what it’s going to be,” Agee said. “It’s going to be the same core but be different every year. We’re looking at it on a bigger level.”

Thompson-Agee said they, by no means, intend to become a seasonal establishment, instead opting to satisfy the appetites of individuals all year long.

The decision for this stems from the desire to truly be a respite for people, while offering them a tasty opportunity to brighten up their day.

“I can’t stress enough how we just want to make a difference. When you come in here, I want you to laugh, I want you to feel good,” Thompson-Agee said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here