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Robert Trigaux

Job anxiety spurs hot dog cart sales



Joelgoetzjanetdoolyamericandreamhotdogcart Wake up and good morning. Facing pay cuts and rising job anxiety, more Americans are turning to selling hot dogs using mobile hot dog carts to supplement income and, in the worst case, to build a secondary business should unemployment occur.

The front page of today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) cites the trend and quotes Joel Goetz of St. Petersburg's American Dream Hot Dog Carts Inc., who says sales started taking off last year. "Every model is taking off," says Goetz, who also owns Jo-El's Delicatessen & Marketplace.

 His manufactured carts start at $2,000. Since January, he's been selling about 25 carts a week, 15 more than usual. (In photo, Goetz congratulates Janet Dooly, with her "Malibu" hot dog cart model -- starting price $2,700 -- in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of American Dream Hot Dog Carts.)

The Journal says today's cart buyers are generally older and have more white-collar work experience than was traditionally the case. Another cart manufacturer says people are either buying these carts in anticipation of a layoff or to supplement their incomes.

I'm noticing more mobile hot dog carts these days. And it makes sense. It's getting harder to find a reasonably priced lunch offering in the downtowns of Tampa Bay area cities. If I can keep lunch under $6 (especially with a tip), that's a coup. So in mid recession, having more low-priced options like hot dogs can be appealing. Not to mention a quick option on those busy days. A "skilled" cart dealer -- that means someone with both good sales ability and dexterity in serving dogs quickly -- in a pedestrian-heavy area can net up to $400 a day.

Sellingapplesdepression Obviously, there's a modest parallel between the rise of selling hot dogs now and the iconic roadside selling of apples during the Depression. Could the hot dog cart become a symbol of hard times, circa 2007-2010?

Only if you're fiscally conservative. At American Dream Hot Dog Carts, some carts can go for the price of a low-end car. The "Daytona" hot dog cart, for example, comes with a base stick price of $10,999. Want mustard with that?

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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