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The University Star


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Chili Dog Stand ends legacy after 71 years of serving San Marcos community

Marisa Nuñez
Owner Gabriel Garza standing in front of his stand on its last day on Dec. 30, 2023, at Chili Dog Stand.

On the corner of Invasion Street, a long line of cars sat bumper-to-bumper on Friday, Dec. 30 at Chili Dog Stand. Generations of customers from regulars to first-timers lined up in disbelief patiently waiting to savor their last bites. Since it announced its permanent closure Wednesday night, Dec. 27, Chili Dog Stand has seen hundreds of customers eager to get a final taste of its famous chili dogs before they are gone for good.

Gabriel Garza, the current owner of Chili Dog Stand, has witnessed the stand pass through a couple of generations of his family. After 71 years, Garza and his family decided it was time to permanently close the stand as they all felt they had reached a new chapter in their lives.

“It was just the right timing for us,” Garza said. “We kind of wanted to just close it on our time [when] we thought it was good…it’s [been] a lot of hard work on my parents and on me for the past 11 years of running the business so we just got to a point where we’re all in different chapters of our lives.”

Chili Dog Stand posted its statement of closure to the window of the stand on Wednesday night. A photo of the poster taken by a customer quickly spread throughout social media sending several chili dog lovers to the storefront during its final days. Starting Thursday, Chili Dog Stand has had lines of people and cars surrounding the stand, causing traffic to surrounding roads and the stand to run out of food and supplies within the first four hours of opening.

Felix and Linda Perez waiting in line for one last chili dog on Dec. 30, 2023, at Chili Dog Stand (Marisa Nuñez)

For Felix and Linda Perez, Chili Dog Stand regulars since 1956, the Chili Dog Stand is a landmark.

“I came to college here in 1966,” Linda said. “I met friends that I had gone to school with here…it’s reminiscing and Chili Dog Stand became a social place. The memories that I made and the friendships is what I associate with a chili dog.”

Now living in Austin, the Perez’ drove to San Marcos for Chili Dog Stand’s last day. They are both disappointed about the closure because of all the memories they associate with the stand.

“In 1967, two days before I left for [the Vietnam War], we came to get the hotdogs before we left,” Felix said. “You figure you’re going be so far away so you got to get your satisfaction with a hotdog. And when I came back in 1971 it’s the first place we came.”

Linda recalls coming to Chili Dog Stand with her dad when she was younger and sharing eight chili dogs for $1. The tradition spread to her and Felix’s children, who always make an effort to stop and get chili dogs whenever they are in San Marcos.

John Paul Sanchez enjoying a chili dog on Dec. 30, 2023, at Chili Dog Stand. (Marisa Nuñez)

John Paul Sanchez was only a young boy when he first started coming to Chili Dog Stand. He and his siblings would load into the back of his father’s truck and begin the drive from Austin to San Marcos. He thought Chili Dog Stand was a special place and a big event because of the family pack which comes with six chili dogs.

“Riding in the back of the truck to get here and then a bag of chili dogs that [his dad] would tear open and [say] ‘everybody get one,’” Sanchez said. “That was the memorable thing.”

After Sanchez and his siblings’ hands and faces were covered in chili they would go down to the river and swim.

Years later, Chili Dog Stand is still a special place for Sanchez. The chili itself brings back memories of the drive to San Marcos and the fun he and his family would have at the river. After hearing about the closure, Sanchez came back to relive his childhood one last time.

“After that, you like the flavor of the chili,” Sanchez said. “So then it just sticks to you. So now I’m 54 and I still come back.”

On its last day, Garza thought the amount of people that came out was a beautiful thing, as well as overwhelming. He found that the best part of working at Chili Dog Stand was being a part of San Marcos itself. Although he is keeping the stand and the property, he has no future plans for either of them as of right now. Garza plans to spend his newfound free time with his daughter.

“I just want San Marcos to know that we are very thankful to [the community] for being a part of our lives,” Garza said.

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