A $25,000 grant Gengs secured for The New Freret through a competition sponsored by Markham Vineyards helped continue branding the transformation through the years, which recently attracted the attention of more established franchises such as LeBron James–backed Blaze Pizza and New York–based, rapidly expanding Halal Guys — a testament, in the eyes of some, to the progress made in the neighborhood.
"When you're a mom-and-pop, you don't want to experiment with a lot of money because you can lose it all," explained Mike Casey, co-founder of Liberty Cheesesteaks, which moved into the location Dat Dog outgrew in 2012.
But more established chains are not likely going to be dissuaded by the rise in commercial property prices, which have risen 135 percent to around $45 per square foot, according to Casey's estimates. "When you're Blaze Pizza, you go to where the crowd is, but when you're a mom-and-pop, you go to where you can create," he said.
As for Georges, he's used his success on Freret Street to build a unique, two-story Dat Dog on an empty lot where a bar burned down on Frenchmen Street just downriver from New Orleans' historic French Quarter. Now, the company is looking at opportunities to franchise Dat Dogs across other Louisiana neighborhoods.