] Around Columbia: March 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tiny Miss Columbia

You don't see a kid with a tierra and a sash everyday on the streets of Columbia. Especially on a weekday, in the early afternoon, and when it is not even close to Halloween. I had literally finished a story across the street and was loading my equipment into my van when I spotted Evelyn Harrison and her mother Chrystal.

I had to get the picture and the story.

Evelyn and her mother were downtown looking for sponsors for the Missouri Dream Girls State Pageant to be held on March 27th- 29th in Saint Louis.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Hot Dog Cart

Hot dogs are big business. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (yes there is such a thing):

“During Hot Dog Season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs or 818 hot dogs consumed every second during that period.”

Not all those hot dogs are consumed at home since ballparks, and other venues, are hugely popular locations for consumption. One of those other venues is the hot dog pushcart, a hot dog stand on wheels, that do their fair share of selling hot dogs to a hungry public. Pushcarts of all kinds are a time honored, and economical, entry into entreapenourship with many being becoming the foundation of much larger businesses. The late Carl Karcher Jr., the founder of Carl's Jr hamburger chain, started out with a $325 hot dog push cart and ended up with a chain of over a hundred restaurants that was latter purchased by CKE Restourants (also the owner of Hardee's).

Business Week even ran an article about a “former elementary school teacher and guidance counselor they dubbed The Hot Dog Professor. Mark Reitman, the Hot Dog Professor himself, runs a school for aspiring hot dog cart entrepreneurs’ in Milwaukee charging each person in a class of six to eight students $300 each. At least back in 2008, when the story ran, business was good and he planned on expanding.

I have always been attracted to hot dog carts. Whenever I go to New York the trip is not complete without eating a hot dog from a cart and buying a fake Rolex. I know that neither activity is politically correct but I get a kick out of them.

Unlike Chicago with over 2000 carts and New York, with even more than that, Columbia has sporadically been home to one cart at a time. At this point that stand is ran by Tim Mallory who I caught up with at the corner of 9th and Broadway the sort of epicenter for downtown Columbia.

Back in Columbia since August of 2008 Mr. Mallory is no stranger to either Columbia or the hot dog cart business. The former native and his wife lived in Florida for 16 years before they returned. In Florida he managed a Jeep dealership until the car business started to go sour several years ago. When I talked to him he said that there were signs even then that the American car industry and its network of dealerships was already in trouble. Among the work he did in Florida after leaving the dealership was running a hot dog cart in. For family and business reasons, like many former natives, he decided to return. After he had been here for awhile he learned about a cart for sale, and reentered the hot dog cart business again. This time in Columbia.

Mr. Mallory sells the Hebrew National brand, a rather famous kosher hot dog, at the rate of $2.50 for a regular and $3.50 for a jumbo. He also includes a varying menu of condiments “adding whatever people seem to ask for.”

Mr. Mallory noted that it sometimes makes for long days starting as early as 8 a.m. and ending after the bars close at 2..m. that night. Besides running the hotdog cart he is a day trader, and sells hot dog carts as well as other miscellaneous items, on eBay.