Jayson Edwards was no longer interested in eating sub sandwiches and pizza as a college student, so he decided he would start something new, something simple. In June of 2004, Edwards opened a small shack south of campus he called “J Dawgs.”
The business idea came from the most humble of beginnings. What started as the brainchild of a creative, broke and somewhat directionless BYU student has become something much more. Now, nearly 10 years later, the hot dog shack south of campus has transformed into a thriving chain of restaurants scattered across Utah with a brand name that is becoming increasingly popular.
It all began on a warm summer day when Edwards passed a 12×12-foot hut on 700 East and thought, “That would be a great spot for a hot dog stand.” After pawning his Fender Telecaster, he put plans into motion to open his own restaurant.
Flash forward to today, and Edwards can be seen smiling and greeting customers who file in for the lunch rush to grab a bite before heading back to the daily grind. Edwards’ open and welcome attitude has earned him a reputation for being a friendly owner among staff members and customers. Holding a conversation with him is difficult due to how many dog lovers want to chat with the creator himself.
Asking for reviews on Edwards’ products yields uniform results.
“Jay has been able to take something that has been around for a long time, put a modern twist to it and make it appealing to customers,” Orem resident Daniel Wing said after taking a bite of his ‘dawg.’ “It’s quick, it’s easy and tastes great.”
While working at BYU as an Asian studies major, Edwards explained, he had always wondered what his fate would be after obtaining his degree. He had logically thought he would end up working in international relations at a job with fellow Cougars, but it turned out he is now the one employing them instead.
Dozens of BYU students have been given jobs at J Dawgs, and Edwards assured he wants to make sure those attending college are getting paid well.
“The BYU students that work at the company are people that are driven, and most all bring experience and skills that they have from elsewhere. They are great people to work with,” Edwards said. “You know, actually I am still a BYU student working towards a degree, so we have something in common,” he chuckled.
Edwards now owns four J Dawgs locations, in Provo, Orem, American Fork and, most recently, Lehi.
When questioned about why he chose to go so far north for the next stop to build a J Dawgs, Edwards cited market research and positioning of the restaurant as being ideal in the newly developing city of Lehi.
“This is a really great spot for those in Salt Lake City down to Draper to come on over to grab a bite,” Edwards said.
The new locations have been more prepared for the wave of hot dog fans that hit every new location that opens. Last year the American Fork site was forced to close early due to hungry customers eating the entire supply of fresh buns.
The success of Edwards’ hot dog business is in large part due to his commitment to the company. When asked what he would recommend to young entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses, he freely offered his secret.
“You have to know what you want to do and be willing to put in a lot of hard work to get it,” he said. “It’s passion that will ultimately lead you to be successful … that, and maybe a little bit of luck.”
Edwards did admit he is in no way a one-man show.
“I may be the J in J Dawgs, but there are five or six other letters that should be on there also … my family and friends play an important role in making everything run smoothly,” he said.
Edwards’ niece Scout, an athletic training student at BYU, spoke about what she admires in her uncle.
“He has always known what to say and is a real people person, but on top of that is his creativity,” she explained. “He is a hard worker and good example. … I have seen J Dawgs grow over the past eight years with him and am excited to see what happens in the future.”
The taste for J Dawgs that BYU students have, combined with local community support for Edwards’ product, is what inspired him to branch out and build more locations in the first place. When asked about his feelings regarding BYU, he had nothing but kind words.
“I’m so grateful for the support that was and is still given by BYU professors, the university and the community,” Edwards said. “The help I received from the BYU entrepreneur center within the Marriott School is what really made my business possible.”
All signs point to continued success for the man offering some of the biggest tube steaks in Utah Valley.