Since opening, Hank & Hazel’s Really Good Sausages have been on the road to success – in more ways than one.
Hank & Hazel’s, owned by husband and wife Andy and Sarah Harper, has grown from a sausage truck showcased at community events to a brick-and-mortar restaurant that opened amid the COVID-19 pandemic to become a popular and growing culinary institution who leverages the skills of a team of gourmet chefs.
Through this development and their frequent events and partnerships, the Harpers and their team have become well-known throughout the community. Now they have in turn been named Business of the Year by their community.
Hank & Hazel’s received its recognition from the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce’s annual Night of Champions dinner, which honors three individuals and a company for their “work, attitude and dedication to their areas of responsibility,” according to a Facebook post.
Sarah said it was a “humbling” honor.
“We never expected that when we started this business,” she said. “I am honored that the community and Chamber see and appreciate the impact our business has on the community.”
Sarah said there were a number of things highlighted by the board that served as a factor in awarding the prize. These include his “Dine and Donate” events, where proceeds from restaurant sales are donated on certain days to charities and programs such as parent-teacher associations and local music and sports programs, his sponsorship of local events, and the time it worked with Brazelton Ranch Selling peaches on Hank & Hazel’s patio after the LNU Lightning Complex burned.
“We’ve made it our mission to support most organizations that make inquiries to us,” she said. “Most of our marketing dollars go toward our community engagement rather than more traditional marketing approaches. We think that’s important. This is how we want to spread the message: through our customers and the organizations they belong to, the schools, the non-profit organizations and what is important to them.”
Hank & Hazel’s — named for a pair of breeding hogs raised by Sarah’s father — started out in late 2018 as a sausage truck parked in front of breweries and local businesses like Pacific Ace Hardware.
“We received so much positive feedback and encouragement during this phase that we decided to look for a brick-and-mortar location,” Sarah said.
Eventually, the Harpers bought the site at the corner of Merchant and Stevenson Streets previously occupied by Imperial China Kitchen.
“It was interesting and kind of funky and cool,” Sarah said. “We thought it would be a great place for the type of food we sell: casual with outdoor seating.”
The site was purchased in 2019, and the Harpers spent the next few months going through the usual hurdles to opening a store. They finally did so on March 17, 2020 — the day before the pandemic prompted Solano County to enact its stay-at-home order. Among other things, the order allowed restaurants to operate only in drive-thru or only for takeout.
This didn’t stop the stationary Hank & Hazel’s from becoming an instant hit. Guests stopped by to take home the large selection of sausages, fries and desserts. Since then it has remained popular.
Community support has allowed Hank & Hazel’s to grow in other ways.
“We’ve enlarged our team, we’ve added a lot more service hours, we’ve hired a team of more talented chefs so there’s a lot more variety in the food we make, and we’ve taken the catering and our old wagon back so we can serve at community events.” or catering events,” said Sarah. “That opened up many new opportunities and opportunities for us.”
However, Sarah said one thing has remained the same.
“It’s really about connecting people through food,” she said. “It’s about having good food on the plate, food we’re proud of and creating a space for people to have fun and build community, and that’s been a constant throughout.”
Connecting with customers and the community is what Sarah enjoys most about Hank & Hazel’s.
“When I’m working at the checkout and meeting new customers and meeting long-time customers and having those moments where I’m providing customer service, seeing the smile on their face, remembering things, those are the best moments,” she said.
As she and Andy serve the truck, Sarah says they’ve met many members of the community.
“As a restaurant owner, you’re kind of on the front line and you really get to know a cross-section of everyone,” she said.
From July 19th to 24th, Hank & Hazel’s Peach Week will take place for the second time. Once again, the restaurant will be selling dishes infused with peaches from Brazelton Ranch. As part of this week, the restaurant is selling tickets to a peach wine tasting on July 20th, run in partnership with Brazelton and The Pip Wine Bar in Dixon.
Also on July 23, the wagon will be set up at Rush Ranch in Suisun City for Country Night at the Solano Land Trust Ranch.
“It’s going to be a Country Western concert with food trucks and vendors on the Rush Ranch grounds,” Sarah said.
Overall, Sarah said she and Andy are grateful to everyone who has helped Hank & Hazel thrive “through what have been two of the most difficult years in the business.”
“We feel that love and are very grateful for it,” she said.
Hank & Hazel’s is located at 501 Merchant St. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, plus an additional Friday and Saturday from 8:00 am to 10:30 am. For more information, call the restaurant at 514-7064.
The other Night of Champions winners were Erika Walthall for Young Professional of the Year, Rosa Gracida for Ambassador of the Year and Ralph Berumen of the Parks and Recreation Commission for Public Servant of the Year.