The restaurant called Jack’s Cosmic Dogs came to be because Jack Hurley’s two high-school sons were not playing sports.

“I saw this building and I said to myself, ‘This building is a hot dog joint, if I’ve ever saw one,’” says Hurley, a Realtor with Dunes Properties. “So I told my sons, ‘Okay, you’re not playing sports so I’m going to put you to work.

“And I want you to watch this, because your mom and I are going to come up with this concept [for a restaurant] in six weeks.’”

Hurley wanted his sons to see that they’d inherited a creative gene that would allow them to make jobs for themselves, should they one day decide not to work for “the man.”

He made good on his word and soon enough, the boys and their friends became his first workforce at Jack’s Cosmic Dogs on U.S. Highway 17 North in Mount Pleasant.

Since then, he and his partners, Dave and Chrissy Lorenz, have opened another Jack’s restaurant on Folly Road, and a third will open this summer in West Ashley on St. Andrews Boulevard.

In 1991, Hurley had moved to the Charleston area from Burlington, Vt., where he’d co-owned five restaurants, some of which have been open for 30 years now. “I moved down here and tried to get out of the food trade but then I found myself back in it because it’s what I do best,” he says.

He’d been in real estate in Vermont, as well, where he sold everything, including hotels, motels, and inns. “I’ve always done both real estate and food. It’s because I’m passionate about both,” he says. “I can’t buy everything so I live vicariously through my clients, finding them the places they want.”

When the first Jack’s Cosmic Dogs opened in December 1999, Hurley worked behind the counter six days a week.

“And I loved it because I had complete control,” he says. “Control of my destiny.”

After two years, he felt it was time to decide whether he wanted to grow the business by opening another store. In 2003, he did open one, this time downtown, but it was only eight months before he closed it.

“The small guy can’t do it all,” he says. “I wasn’t prepared to do it and that’s when I had to close. So I said, ‘I’m just going to have one, and I’m going to staff it out real well and I’m just going to sell real estate.’ I’m a businessman so it was the natural thing to do.”

Since that time, he has joined with his partners and hired an operations firm to run the restaurants. It’s an arrangement that allows him to focus on real estate.

Hurley particularly enjoys selling homes to his friends from up north. “The majority of people I work with I know,” he says. He specializes in the Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant and downtown areas. What he finds the most fun about working with clients in real estate is “seeing” the house done in his mind — that is, when he steps into a place, he creates a concept for the house the way he would create a concept for a building he’s going to make into a restaurant.

“I see what the house could be,” he says. “The smoke and mirrors, the architecture decked out, the landscaping finished.”

Just like he saw a nostalgic hot dog joint with a funky vintage space theme in an old cinderblock building in Mount Pleasant.

“You can’t have an idea that you want your kitchen a certain way,” he says. “If you look at the house, the building will tell you what you need to do.”

Kim Catanzarite is a local freelance editor and writer. She can be reached at