April 10, 2020

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We have a wiener

Skinner's hotdog kiosk at The Forks replaced by Wienerpeg

The corner kiosk in the main dining hall at The Forks had been occupied for 30 years by Skinner's, the iconic Manitoban hotdog chain. The national historic site opened in 1989; so did the Skinner's kiosk.

But when it came time to seek a lease renewal last fall, owner Allan Thompson's tenant application was rejected. It was the first time he had to compete with outside bidders for the space, and The Forks' brass decided to approve a different business and go in another direction.

Chris Stammers gets condiments at Wienerpeg, the new gourmet hot dog vendor which replaced Skinner's
at The Forks Tuesday. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Chris Stammers gets condiments at Wienerpeg, the new gourmet hot dog vendor which replaced Skinner's at The Forks Tuesday. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

That direction, it appears, is not entirely different after all: what was once Skinner's is now Wienerpeg. They closed Skinner's up, and put in a hotdog shop.

The upscale frankfurter spot, which opened this week, is run by Steffen Zinn, the ever-productive restaurateur behind Wall Street Slice, the Red Ember pizza truck, and the Red Ember Common, a wood-fired pizza joint at The Forks a potato's throw from Wienerpeg. 

"It's certainly big shoes to fill," Zinn told the Free Press.

He says the inspiration for the hot-doggery came during a visit to Germany, where he visited a butcher shop that had been running for 350 years. 

"I spent a day and a half at the shop, helping and observing how they made their sausages and wieners," Zinn said in a post on The Forks' website. "After having a Frankfurter wiener and bread lunch with him, I was reminded of how absolutely delicious a well-made wiener could be."

And the wiener is....

Happyland Print Shop has been selling products that say Wienerpeg — including ones depicting a sausage covered in sausage-like lettering — since about 2015. (HappylandPrintShop / Etsy)

Happyland Print Shop has been selling products that say Wienerpeg — including ones depicting a sausage covered in sausage-like lettering — since about 2015. (HappylandPrintShop / Etsy)

Meanwhile, the name "Wienerpeg" has gotten the restaurant into a pickle.

Happyland Print Shop, a local vendor, has been selling products that say Wienerpeg — including ones depicting a sausage covered in sausage-like lettering — since about 2015.

The line is one of Happyland's Kristin McPherson's top sellers.

On Oct. 29, around the time word of the restaurant reached her, McPherson submitted an application to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to trademark the design's use on a number of goods. A week earlier, the restaurant had submitted an application for the standard characters "WIENERPEG" and "WIENER PEG" used in relation to hotdogs and restaurant services.

Meanwhile, the name "Wienerpeg" has gotten the restaurant into a pickle.

Happyland Print Shop, a local vendor, has been selling products that say Wienerpeg — including ones depicting a sausage covered in sausage-like lettering — since about 2015.

The line is one of Happyland's Kristin McPherson's top sellers.

On Oct. 29, around the time word of the restaurant reached her, McPherson submitted an application to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to trademark the design's use on a number of goods. A week earlier, the restaurant had submitted an application for the standard characters "WIENERPEG" and "WIENER PEG" used in relation to hotdogs and restaurant services.

Both applications have now been formalized.

McPherson said she contacted Zinn when she heard the intended name, offering to collaborate or to license her design; that never materialized. She then applied to trademark the design.

Zinn said the name — long a self-depricating local sobriquet — came up during a brainstorming session; the restaurant team then Googled it to see whether any other restaurants had used it, and saw the print company's work. 

"I can honestly say, hand on heart, we came up with the name without any influence from (the print company," he said. "It's a great name for a hotdog shop in Winnipeg," he added.

The design the restaurant uses — a round-edged rectangular logo with the name in all-caps — was designed by a staff member, Zinn said. The lettering is the same as The Forks uses, he added. 

Zinn said he'd also hoped for a mutually beneficial agreement — perhaps selling patches and magnets at the kiosk. 

Kristin McPherson's designs are frequently sold at the second-floor marketplace above the Weinerpeg restaurant. (HappylandPrintShop / Etsy)

Kristin McPherson's designs are frequently sold at the second-floor marketplace above the Weinerpeg restaurant. (HappylandPrintShop / Etsy)

McPherson didn't rule out any collaboration, but wished it could have been discussed before trademark applications and lawyers, which cost hundreds of dollars, got involved. Her concern was mainly that if she didn't trademark her design, she could be blocked from reproducing it even though her work predated the restaurant.

She said the situation isn't as contentious as it seems, but that it's a weird spot to be in.

Weirder still, her designs are frequently sold at the second-floor marketplace above the Weinerpeg restaurant.

Both trademark applications are awaiting approval.

Reached at his home in St. Andrews Tuesday, Thompson said he wished Wienerpeg well.

"But I'm quite surprised another hotdog vendor went in there, because we were told (by management) they wanted something else. It's kind of hard to understand," he said.

"We find it kind of baffling."

Shortly before The Forks location closed in the fall, Thompson told the Free Press that despite his restaurant's longevity and popularity — they'd increased revenues three years in a row — he suspected the market administration wanted change. 

In recent years, several next-generation kiosks, such asho Nuburger and KYU Grill — which also serves fancy hotdogs — opened, while the main dining hall has become oriented around The Common, a beer and wine bar. Sit-down restaurant Passero has also added fine-dining flare and has helped breathe new life into the historic destination.

Wienerpeg appears to be in keeping with those changes, and somewhat confirms Thompson's suspicion.

The menu will feature all-beef wieners made with local grass-fed beef as well as European-style wieners composed of blended beef and local heritage pork from Zinn's family's farm. Echoing the flights of beer offered by The Common, the restaurant will offer mini hotdog flights. "Our customers will get a choice of four mini hotdogs... (to) pair with a beer or wine flight," Zinn said in the post.

Vegetarian options include a non-meat dog — a carrot marinated in the same spice mixture as the traditional dishes, deep-fried to order. There's also a gluten-free corndog. Vegan-friendly and gluten-free buns will also be available. Sides include fresh-cut french fries and poutine with house-made chicken gravy. Hotdogs start at $4.95, with many priced at $6.50.

Steffen Zinn says the inspiration for the hot-doggery came during a visit to Germany, where he visited a butcher shop that had been running for 350 years. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Steffen Zinn says the inspiration for the hot-doggery came during a visit to Germany, where he visited a butcher shop that had been running for 350 years. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Wherever possible, the restaurant will use local and ethically sourced ingredients like buns from Winnipeg's Red Spring Bakery, and sauerkraut, relish, and pickles made with vegetables from Wild Earth Farms, located two miles south of Bird's Hill Provincial Park.

Wienerpeg opened Monday, and its first customer bought a Chicago-style carrot dog, topped with mustard, tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, relish, celery salt, and a pickle spear. The restaurant opens daily at 11 a.m. 

Thompson said he hasn't been back to The Forks yet, but intends to visit soon. "We wish the new vendor all the best," he added.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
Reporter

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 3:18 PM CST: changes hotdog to one word

5:13 PM: Writethru.

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