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  • How a Hot-Dog Wagon
    Can Earn You Cold Cash
    By Paulette Thomas

    Have a question about starting a business? Write to startup, with your first name and the city where you're located, which we'll show if we answer and post your question.

    Question: I am 23 and plan to start a chain of hot-dog wagons by next summer. People laugh when they first hear of it, but in doing the research I found that it can be a lucrative business. Is this a good step for a first-time businessman?

    -- Stephen, Cromwell, Conn.

    Stephen: Let those people snicker. You might launch a successful enterprise that you enjoy under the summer skies, while your pals are slinking off to a dimly lit cubicle.

    Don Cowan agrees and he speaks from experience. "Don't laugh," he says. "It can be a very good business."

    Mr. Cowan, of Andover, MA., spent years as a printing salesman, and one of his clients happened to own a business selling hot-dog carts (or "cahts" as he says in his New England accent). "Before I knew it," he says, "he set me up selling hot-dog carts for him," and Mr. Cowan took over the business.

    But that's a sideline. Mr. Cowan, now in his fourth season selling hot dogs, makes more money running his own cart in downtown Andover in front of the old town hall. He is able to suspend business for most of the winter. "I do not collect unemployment," he emphasizes. You can find him at his Web site,, which includes interesting trivia and tales of hot-dog vendors making $100,000 a year. That's likely to be the vendors on the busiest street corners, selling the most menu items. For his part, he says $300 a day in grosses is reasonable, and of that, $200 is likely to be profit. If that's the case for nine months of the year, revenue would be about $80,000.

    He loves his business and especially gabbing with his regular customers. He can't remember their names, but possesses the more important talent of recalling how they like their dogs. He will have them ready when he sees them approaching. "I'll be thinking, 'OK, here comes Mr. Plain with Ketchup,' " he says.

    It doesn't take much to start. You can get a basic cart for about $2,700 -- though a tricked-out cart with a trailer can go up to $20,000. You'd require about another $1,000 for initial inventory, licensing fees and other expenses.

    Location should be your highest priority, he says. Obviously, you want to be where lots of pedestrians stroll around. Sometimes the location will be specified by local permits, which should reduce turf battles.

    But the permit and license process, he says, is the most difficult hurdle. "It takes persistence," he says. Requirements depend on the city and state. You are likely to need a vendor's license and a city health permit. Some towns require you to take an eight-hour food-safety course, with an exam at the end. Some municipalities treat hot-dog carts as if they were full-blown restaurants, requiring owners to comply with every last regulation. For example, many won't allow you to do preparation at home. If you are chopping up peppers and onions, that makes life on the hot-dog cart more difficult.

    Expect to spend a month or so navigating the local bureaucracy. Start at your town or city hall health department and they will tell you what you need to do. "You don't have to, but you should really have liability insurance, too," he says.

    Of course, there are downsides. Not everyone, for instance, is comfortable with a weather-dependent business. "I'm a fair-weather worker," Mr. Cowan says. And you're on your feet, working over a hot cart. But for Mr. Cowan, that's all part of the fun.

    He's full of advice for young entrants to the business like yourself, and never passes up the opportunity to buy a hot dog from a fellow vendor in any city for a chance to chat and swap tricks of the trade.

    He started with the basics: hot dogs, chips and sodas. Now his cart has a grill, and he also sells kielbasa, sausages, peppers and onions. On the advice of another hot-dog cart man, he added a shaved-ice machine, which increased business nicely in hot weather. "They won't buy a hot dog when it's hot if you don't have a slushee," he says.

    At one point, he went to the trouble to get the licenses required to sell at various local ball fields. "I used it exactly once in four years," he says. It turned out his following is so strong downtown, that his regulars were annoyed when they couldn't find him at his usual post.

    Judging by the success of Mr. Cowan, it helps business if you have a good time. The name of his cart is "Brian's Father's Hot Dogs." Not too surprisingly, his only child is 26-year-old Brian who at first was mortified by his father's tribute, but now enjoys his measure of fame. "He told me at first, 'I'll never go downtown again,' " Mr. Cowan recalls. "Now he thinks it's great." The two work side by side during Fourth of July parades and other big business days.

    "Hey," says Mr. Cowan, "you have to have a catchy name."

    Have a question about starting a business? Write to startup, with your first name and the city where you're located, which we'll show if we answer and post your question.

  • Also if your interested in more info about a hot dog cart read the rest of this web site and call Don Cowan at 1-978-360-0963.

The Man Who Sold Hot Dogs

There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.
He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio.
He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspaper.
But he sold good hot dogs.
He put signs up on the highway telling how good they were.
He stood on the side of the road and cried “Buy a hot dog, mister?”
And people bought.
He increased his meat and bun orders.
He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.

He finally got his son home from college to help him out.
But then something happened.
His son said, “Father, haven't you been listening to the radio?”
“Haven't you been reading the newspaper?”
There's a big depression.”
“The European situation is terrible.”
The domestic situation is worse.”
Whereupon the father thought, “Well, my son has been to college: he
reads the papers and listens to the radio, he ought to know.”
So his father cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his
advertising signs, and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to sell his hot dogs.

And his hot dog sales fell almost overnight.
“You're right, son.” the father said to the boy.
“We are certainly in the middle of a great depression.”


The Amesbury News, Amesbury, MA

Carriagetown Notes

Six months after retiring from the Amesbury Police Department, Sgt. Daniel Cleary will

be back on the streets this summer serving the residents of Amesbury. But instead of

wearing a service handgun and handcuffs, Cleary will be armed with hot dog tongs and

a sound system. The 27-year police veteran has received approval from the Municipal

Council to sell hot dogs where the Amesbury Visitors Center once operated.


Sing for Your Supper, Cleary said, represents his wish to combine his love for singing

and interacting with people. He has performed many times around the community, most

notably with a rendition of the National Anthem inside Landry Memorial Stadium during

last year's two-year memorial of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. More recently,

Cleary, along with two fellow singers, wrote and recorded a rally song in honor of the

Boston Red Sox.


Cleary said the idea for his latest venture came when watching street performers at Quincy

Market in Boston. He plans to keep the cart open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will

remove it after closing. Music will be reggae influenced, with perhaps some Jimmy Buffett

thrown in.


After Municipal Council President Joe McMilleon jokingly asked Cleary to sing a sample of

his repertoire Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved Cleary's request for a

common victualler license.


The Royal Gazette - Hamilton, Bermuda

Entrepreneurs open new, sidewalk-style hot dog stand

Two Bermudian entrepreneurs have taken to the streets with a new hot dog stand.
The business, named Winky Dinky Dog, was launched as a part-time venture by

Leroy Turini and Carlos Lopes last month.


So far, they are serving up dogs at Harbor Nights in Hamilton on Wednesday nights

and are also open for business on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Butterfield

and Vallis lot on Woodlands Road.


Yesterday, Mr. Lopes told The Royal Gazette the American-style hot dog cart can also

cater for events.  He added that hot dogs are not their only products with drinks, chips

and chocolate also being offered at the stand.


The two entrepreneurs, who work full-time on the sales side for importer Butterfield and

Vallis, said so far response had been good for the new venture – which is fully licensed

with approval from the Health Department and a trailer licence from Transport authorities.

So, what can you get with your dog? The pair said they offer all sorts of toppings for the

hot dogs including chili, sauerkraut, chopped onion and cheese.


Seattle Post Intelligencer - Swattle, WA
A moment with ... Joe Jeannot, hot dog vendor

Joe Jeannot runs two vending carts, called Hot Dog Joe's, outside Safeco Field. The

36-year-old has sold hot dogs there since the baseball stadium opened four years ago.

He also operates a Belltown hot dog cart on Friday and Saturday nights.

On preparing for the home opener: We prepped up our food like onions and vegetables.

Today we had all our orders come in with the bread and the hot dogs. We get all our steamers.

We do a lot of cleaning. We get our peanuts delivered. I mean everything that goes on today all came today.... We started at 6:30 this morning.

On how many hot dogs are sold: That's a question I get from a lot of people. My answer I give to everyone is we sell a lot.

On the most popular condiments: Onions. Onions and ketchup. Everybody has to have their onions and ketchup, but the sleeper is probably cream cheese. That seems to be the new hot topping. Everybody wants cream cheese.

On catching a game: I take my staff with me. We'll hit like three or four games a year. I buy them a whole bunch of tickets. We sit in the bleachers, have a couple sodas, eat bad food and have a good time.

On season predictions: I think we're gonna finish first or second in the West. As long as we can avoid injury, I think we could be OK. We got a tough schedule.... First or second. I'm not going to say third. Don't believe in it.

On vending: I think that there should be more food vending going on in Seattle because it's good for small business. It's good for people who want to get in small business and try it out. I've learned a lot. I'm still learning. So I think that the city should allow more vending to go on through the city instead of just at events. And at the same time I think that someday down the road I think that you'll see vending as big as it is back East.

On business: My biggest day normally is when the Yankees come to town.... People from the East Coast come out in droves and they eat their hot dogs. It's like the biggest day. When the Yankees are in town it's big. Bigger than opening day.

Hungry Customers Flock to Truck offering Asian Lunch Specialtais


One day in late November, Marcela Muniz, associate director of undergraduate admission, stood at the head of a 46-person line snaking in front of two red-and-white lunch trucks parked on Santa Teresa Street. "My co-workers told me it was very good," said Muniz, lifting an egg roll from a stainless steel buffet bolted to the side of a truck.

Graduate students Hee Cheul Choi and Moonsub Shim were well behind Muniz in line -- but they weren't complaining about the wait. In fact, the long line of lunch customers, along with the price ($4.50 for all you can eat) and a food selection that included red snapper, chicken with Thai peanut sauce, Thai green curry, Vindaloo curry and seven more dishes, convinced them to give the trucks a try. They'd come back every single day for three straight weeks, Choi said.

The trucks temporarily have vanished this month -- victims of their own swift popularity. "The support we received at Stanford grew faster than we anticipated," said Chon Vo, a partner in NetAppetit Inc. of Santa Clara, which operates the trucks. "We are currently scrambling to renovate our mobile kitchen to provide quicker service."

When NetAppetit returns -- and it will return, Vo promises -- it will be with a new truck modeled after a mobile kitchen that's been successfully serving MIT students hot lunches for the last decade. (At MIT, the lunch line can stretch to 70 or 80 people, Vo said.)

Vo, who originally is from Vietnam, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied biochemistry and electrical engineering. He brought the idea for the food truck with him to Silicon Valley from MIT, he said.

He and fellow international students at MIT hadn't intended to go into the food business, he said, "but a bunch of us really missed international food." In Boston, Vo and his friends were tutors for the children of refugees and noted that many of their parents were unemployed because of language barriers, Vo said. Starting an international food business would give the students a chance to eat the food they missed and provide income for people, he said.

The food business, which students had envisioned as a "bake sale type of thing" with revenue of maybe $200 to $300 a day, soon was making $5,000 to $6,000 daily, Vo said. The business grew into the Poppa and Goose restaurant in Cambridge, which still operates a food truck at MIT called Gooseberry's. (It was at Poppa and Goose that the food earned kudos from Cambridge resident Julia Child; a plug from Child is painted on the side of the truck.)

Vo and fellow MIT graduates actually came to Silicon Valley to start an online grocery store -- which Vo points out folded six months before Webvan started. "In a short time, we knew there wouldn't be any money in it."

He and his partners were struck by how much more profit margin there is in prepared food than in groceries, he said. NetAppetit operates four trucks, pulling into parking lots at high-tech companies including Cisco, Oracle and Nortel.

Vo keeps a day job at Cisco and manages the trucks part time. "You can't make a living out of it, but it's fun," he said. And as it did in Massachusetts, the company provides needed jobs and good international food.

At MIT after 10 years, the food truck operators and their customers coalesced into a community, an experience Vo hopes will be repeated at Stanford. Already there's been a lot of input from students, Vo said. "This is the best community we've served."

When the trucks come back, they won't be loaded down with the eye-popping buffet NetAppetit first brought on campus, Vo said. Most likely, diners will choose three entree items from a list of 10, Vo said. The line will move faster and the food won't be exposed to the elements, he added.

The trucks will reopen with menu items and recipes that have stood the test of time, although the company does like to continue to test new dishes, Vo said. And Vo offers a powerful incentive to offer NetAppetit's cooks new ideas: "If you contribute a recipe we use, you get free lunch for a semester."

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