Sole supplier of Bill’s Hot Dogs burns

Published 5:56 pm Friday, June 1, 2012

The aftermath of the fire at Spencer Packing Company, off N.C. Highway 17 on the south side of the Tar River. The company was the sole supplier of Bill’s Hot Dogs, known across the country for their dogs “all the way.”


Fire destroyed Spencer Packing Company Thursday night. The family-owned business employed nine people, was the creator of Ole Tar Heel sausages, and a mainstay of Washington business. Spencer Packing Company was also the sole supplier of the dogs that are the foundation of Bill’s Hot Dogs.

The Chocowinity Fire Department was first called out to Spencer Packing Company, formerly known as Washington Packing Company, around 2 p.m. Thursday when an electrical fire was reported. While the fire was contained and the source identified, at 5:30 a.m. Friday morning, another report of fire came in, according to Chocowinity Fire Department Fire Chief Tommy Pendley.

“It was an electrical problem,” said Pendley. “Evidently something else was still messed up — overnight something sparked back up. (The owner) was working on getting it looked at.”

Along with Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS and volunteer fire departments from Bunyan, Blounts Creek and Clarks Neck, the Chocowinity department was on the scene for more than eight hours, battling the flames consuming the 30,000 square-foot building.

“We put thousands and thousands of gallons of water on it,” said Pendley. “But it was a loss when we pulled up and we were there within eight minutes.”

Owner Harold Spencer said the outpouring of condolences and support from the community has been overwhelming.

“That’s the sad thing — some of my customers stopped by, they think enough of you to stop by and give their condolences,” said Spencer. “You don’t feel like they’re customers, you’ve known them for so many years. It’s almost like a family. That’s what’s so bad about it.”

The owner of Bill’s Hot Dogs was one of those people who stopped by the fire’s devastation to speak with Spencer during the day.

Jay Boyd, whose wife, Bonnie, owns Bill’s Hot Dogs, said they have a back-up plan in place, though they’re waiting to see what happens with Spencer Packing Company.

“We’ll have to make other arrangements for now and keep going,” said Boyd.

Bill’s Hot Dogs is widely known throughout the region and beyond, primarily for hot dogs served “all the way,” complete with mustard, onions and a chili that’s been a secret since the company opened its doors in 1927. On most days, lunchtime visitors will find a line out the door at Bill’s.

Boyd stressed that Bill’s will be open for business as usual.

“Everything’s going to work out,” said Boyd. “That’s all we can do, is pray for that. We’ll take it one day at time.”

Spencer is also taking it one day at a time.

“WE would like to rebuild, but that’s going to depend on circumstances,” he explained. “It’s too early to make a preliminary guess.”

Another fire Thursday night destroyed a Belhaven Red Apple Store. Like the Spencer Packing Company fire, Belhaven and Pantego volunteer fire fighters responded twice a Red Apple store. After the initial call in which the blaze at the West Main Street store was contained, shortly later they were called back to a fully involved fire at the store, according to reports.

No injuries were reported in either fire, but these two fires follow on the heels of a house fire in Washington last week in which a man died of smoke inhalation. The source of all three fires is thought to be electrical.