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Tailgating is a national pastime, at least among those who love a good Saturday or Sunday afternoon stadium side. This pastime, along with the love of the grill, fueled five business partners to come together to form a unique business concept. Tod Nestor, Herb Ruetsch, John Rossi, Lynn Leitzel and Jennifer Nestor were devotees of two intersecting interests, tailgating and hot dogs. Three of the five spent time together at an iconic NY-based grocer but were ready for something new. As is often the case, it started with a light-bulb moment. A few years back, Tod had an intense craving for a hot dog at his daughter’s soccer workout. There was none to be found. A little research revealed the opportunity – there were no national players in the restaurant world of hot dogs and sausages. An idea and a name emerged: Let’s be the best national hot dog purveyor and let’s name it Tailgate Dogs & Sausages – or, TGDogs.


They were a classic start-up with a great name and huge ambitions, but they also had an experienced team when it came to food retail, strategy, operations, technology and finance. They needed to borrow money to get their fledging enterprise off the ground. But how much and from whom? The TGDogs team needed advice and people they could trust. It just so happened that one of Tod’s former football teammates at Notre Dame had gone on to work for KeyBank. Some introductions were made, and TGDogs soon had a whole KeyBank team, including an SBA Specialist.

“They were very helpful in getting us through the amount that we should borrow. We were probably too light initially versus what was really needed.” – Tod Nestor, co-founder, CEO and owner, Tailgate Dogs & Sausages


The KeyBank team helped TGDogs figure out how much capital they needed to launch their concept and determined the right loan program for their needs.

According to Tod, “They were very helpful in getting us through the amount that we should borrow. We were probably too light initially versus what was really needed.” The KeyBank team crafted a “right-sized” loan that gave the start-up the flexibility it needed. KeyBank’s lenders were more than trusted advisors, they became team members – even attending the grand opening where they sampled the Alo-Hot Dog, a frank smothered in grilled pineapple relish, bacon bits, watercress and whole grain mustard, tucked into a Maui sweet bun.


TGDogs has launched to rave reviews and is quickly building a large following. Satisfied customers are also spreading the word about the great-tasting dogs, sausages, sides and beverages unlike any other, anywhere. Recently, the restaurant was even featured on a local news channel segment focused on tasty food.

The unique recipes and great combinations have struck a chord, giving the TGDogs founders the confidence to expand – they have targeted five new locations, all near college campuses, where tailgating is ingrained in the local culture. They are sure that TGDogs will soon be on its way to making a national footprint, bringing great dogs and sausages to new audiences across the country.

To learn more, contact a local KeyBank Relationship Manager or visit

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