Dogs are a family affair

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, June 20, 2013

John Sumner, owner of Poppy’s Top Dog, displays some dogs and fries at the new North Suffolk eatery.

John Sumner, owner of Poppy’s Top Dog, displays some dogs and fries at the new North Suffolk eatery.

Ask the owner of North Suffolk’s newest eatery how it got its peculiar name, and the answer sort of makes sense.

“I asked my grandkids what they wanted to call it,” said John Sumner of Poppy’s Top Dog.

The involvement of Sumner’s family in the new Bennett’s Creek Crossing hot dog joint stretches far beyond naming rights alone.


Email newsletter signup

Sumner has four children and six grandchildren, and a good many of these can be found behind the counter of the Suffolk store, or at Sumner’s other eatery in Chesapeake’s South Norfolk area.

“My youngest daughter works here,” Sumner said at the North Suffolk location earlier this week.

“I have another daughter (who) works at the Chesapeake store and here. A nephew has been with me about five years — he’s a pretty good worker.”

Sumner started his businesses after a 35-year stint with Farm Fresh and Walmart.

He’d wanted to open a hot dog joint since he was a boy, and when he lost his Walmart job, his wife, according to Sumner, said, “Let’s open a hot dog stand — it’s what you’ve always wanted to do.”

After opening the Chesapeake location in October 2008, “I decided to pray about what I should do next, and God led me over here,” he said. “Sometimes you have got to watch what you pray for.”

While the Chesapeake eatery does breakfast and lunch only, Poppy’s Top Dog serves dinner as well. The business is open from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and closed Sundays.

Sumner says he loves being a small businessman in the restaurant game. “It’s great,” he said. “I’m a people person. I get to talk to many different people.”

The regular menu at Poppy’s Top Dog includes hot dogs; sandwiches, soups and salads; burgers; a long list of sides; plus drinks and desserts.

For breakfast, Sumner serves up sandwiches, such as country steak and egg; omelets, including Poppy’s Special (peppers, onions, tomato, sausage, bacon and cheese); hot plates — things like pancake stacks, sausage and gravy over biscuits and Belgian waffles; and an equally long list of sides.

“The chicken salad is to die for,” Sumner said. “My wife makes that. My mother makes the chicken and dumplings. I make my own chili.”

When parents bring their children to Poppy’s, the television is switched from sports or news to cartoons, Sumner said.

He’s also planning to support local schools by giving over the back wall to student artwork. “I want to be in partnership with elementary schools as well,” he said.