Dogged Pursuit: Professionals Find New
Livelihood Selling Frankfurters
As Gloom Spreads, Carts Sprout All Over; The Guajardo Family's Stand in Texas By Sarah Needleman (Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1)
BANDERA, Texas -- In hard times, some small-town Americans are turning to a new livelihood with relish. Among them are Andrea and Ben Guajardo. They began selling hot dogs from a pushcart on Main Street in November.
Ms. Guajardo is a grant administrator for a health-care system. Her husband, Ben, is a pipeline operator. Theirs is the first hot-dog stand in Bandera, pop. 957 that anybody here can remember.
"It's a backup plan," says Ms. Guajardo, a mother of four. "No one knows what's going to happen with the economy, and I don't want to have to scrounge for a minimum-wage job."
Andrea and Ben Guajardo both work full-time, but began selling wieners with help from their four kids in November.
Facing pay cuts and weakened job security, more Americans are turning to this century-old, big-city trade in outposts like Bandera, where cowboys on horseback share the road with motorcyclists. Many of these vendors are working professionals with day jobs, ranging from real-estate agents to train operators.
Sales of carts, which start at about $2,000 new, have heated up in the past year.
Hot dog vendors are a familiar sight in big cities around the country. For one Texas family, their weekend business is bringing in extra cash amid a slumping economy. Sarah Needleman reports from Bandera, Texas.
Today's cart buyers are generally older and have more white-collar work experience than was traditionally the case, says Will Hodgskiss, president and "top dog" at Willy Dog Ltd., the New York manufacturer that built the Guajardo's cart . "People are either buying these carts in anticipation of a layoff or to supplement their incomes," he says. Willy Dog's sales are up 30% from March 2007.
Here's what some of our customers area saying:
This is a particularly rewarding experience from a couple who started their hot dog cart business together. (You would almost think we paid them to write this! But it was unsolicited.) Thanks for the feedback and best wishes for continued success!
David & Brenda Forsythe
"Dave's Dog House"
I will try to be brief here but wanted to share our story for those who may be thinking of this business but can't make up their minds. David was working in the car business and had been since 1989, he was making somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70K a yr. He moved around some as most car business people will for various reasons mostly more money. Well I won't go on & on but his job was basically eliminated .
I worked for a company was an Investigative Analyst making approx 30-35K when due to some health problems had to take a leave of absence and doctors were saying I probably would not be able to return.
So here we are with a mortgage and lots of other obligations now what? We started to talking about this business and years ago I had expressed to David I wished there was some place here in town to get a decent hot dog. I told him I wish we had the money to open a shop and sell nothing but good hot dogs. Rent and expenses for a shop was not anywhere in our budget.(It is almost like if you will build it, they will come) for lack of a better term.
We started checking out web sites and collecting information on how to get started and what it would cost us to get this going. So we raked and scraped borrowed enough to buy our first hot dog cart. OUR HUMMER FROM WILLY DOG. There are companies in the US that sell these carts & we have seen them and they way they are constructed and if you are thinking about buying one DON'T!!!!!!!!We got health inspected, business license, permits and Insurance and begin to look for locations.
It was a lot of work but believe you me that in the long run it will pay off because you will as we did run across people with out business license and insurance and they complain because they can't get into the business districts. THIS IS WHY. They do not operate this like a business and if you want to succeed you must treat it like it is your living because it can be & should be & it is ours.
Our first day we sold 2 hot dogs LOL and a few drinks. David come home saying I sure hope things pick up LOL. Next day a few more dogs and on & on & on. Sales have continued to build and our business is going so well if we had more carts they all would be busy.
An example of our menu: Hot Dogs (all beef) $2.00 Smokey Dogs ( all meat) $3.00
Can Drinks $1.00, Chips $1.00, Large Kosher Pickles $1.00, we carry a special soda JONES SODA ( made in your part of the country I think) $2.00, on occ we will sell brownies $1.00 & yes even Gummy Bears $1.00 usually when there will be children but hey you would be surprised adults like Gummy Bears.
One big thing is only buy small quanity until you see how it moves. Sometimes things move faster than others depending on the crowd.
One other thing is keep it as simple as possible do not try to sell too many things. We plan to add coffee & coco this cold season and see how it moves. Our story is probably like many others, do what works for you but remember. WINNERS NEVER QUIT & QUITTERS NEVER WIN.
Will at Willy Dog is the only guy we will buy from. He has always answered our questions and always been honest and is professional and does what he says he will do. Our cart got wrecked and we just ordered a replacement from Will and when we get things rolling we plan to buy others. ONLY A WILLY CART!!!
Still Not Convinced?
Here's two more letters we've
received from happy customers.
My wife and I purchased a cart from your company last month. I searched the Internet for a cart that I would enjoy using, and your cart caught my attention immediately. I had never met you, nor have I ever seen one of your food carts in person. After speaking with you and Ron in your office on numerous occasions, my wife and I both felt confident that we made the right decision to purchase a Willy Dog Cart.
As we had plans to start our business the day after Thanksgiving in one of Chicago's south suburban malls, my wife and I decided to travel up through Canada to pick up our new custom made cart. Both Rick and Cory at your distribution site in Alexandria Bay, New York made sure that the cart and trailer were well secured to our vehicle for the return trip. We were a long way from home, didn't know anyone, and couldn't be happier with the way Rick and Cory helped us. They went overboard to assist us in making the long trip home safely. Both men are great representatives of your company's support staff and you should be very proud of them. Thankfully, we arrived back in Chicago after numerous snow storms and high winds without any damage to the cart.
We couldn't be more pleased with the quality and it has everything we need to sell our product efficiently. The cart attracts customers of all ages and business has been brisk. Thank you so much for making this the cart of an enjoyable new venture. I have enclosed a picture of our new Willy Dog cart with my wife and me proudly standing behind it.
Very truly yours,