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Volume 15, Issue 31 ~ August 2- August 8, 2007

Hot Dog!

Two local vendors serve the American dream one plump weiner at a time

by Bethany Rodgers, Bay Weekly Intern

‘Hey buddy, you look worn out. How about a hot dog?” says hot dog vendor Darryl Wilson as a perspiring customer hurries toward him into the cart’s shade.

“I hope I don’t look as bad as I feel,” the customer replies, the hint of a smile already on his face. The smile gets bigger as Wilson hands over a plump hot dog and sends a happier man on his way to the ketchup and relish.

Meanwhile, at Annapolis Home Depot, another hot dog stand offers dogs and more to its customers.

These two stands, their owners and the hot dogs themselves, are a part of the great American dream.

How the Hot Dog May Have Been Born

Tiffany Mayhew in front of her hot dog stand at Home Depot.

Sausages themselves are not American at all; they’ve been around in Germany for centuries and made their way to the States along with immigrants. In America, the sausage transformed into the hot dog in a bun.

The details of this metamorphosis are hazy, but one story features a New York sausage vendor who was worried his customers would burn their hands. His strange but effective solution was to lend gloves to the sausage-buyers. But as gloves disappeared, his wife suggested he put the sausages in a roll instead.

The way the sausage in a bun was named is also debatable. A common tale holds that a cartoonist drew a picture of a dog with the body of a wiener. He wanted to say something about Dachshunds in the caption, but he forgot how to spell the unwieldy word. He titled his picture Hot Dog.

The hot dog became so popular that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt served them to the British royal family as a sample of authentic American cuisine.

The American Way: Fast and Friendly

You don’t have to know hot dog history to feel that eating them is how summer is done. That’s how Home Depot hot dog customer Kirk Moyer grew up, and he’s raising his kids the same way.

“I ask my kids Do you want a truck picnic?” said Moyer, of Pasadena. “Then we go to the stand and eat hot dogs and drink soda in the back of my truck.” Moyer appreciates the stand’s food, and he enjoys the friendliness of the mother and daughter who staff it. “The people here look out for me. On hot days, they ask You got enough water?” Moyer says.

The customers at the Muddy Creek Road stand, Doggie’s, appreciate Wilson’s service and smile, too. “He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” says eight-year-old Caleb Baron one of Wilson’s younger customers. Regulars and friends toot their horns and wave as they drive by, and some try to have shouted conversations with Wilson from the stoplight.

Wilson reports he learned how to treat people well working at a restaurant. “Everyone is ma’am and sir,” he says.

He keeps his stand friendly by playing bluegrass or country music and giving out free food to his customers’ dogs so they can enjoy the juicy sausages with their owners.

Darryl Wilson started his business Doggie’s at the intersection of Mayo Road and Muddy Creek Road three years ago because he thought it would be “fun.”

The people are the former sign salesman’s favorite part of the three years since he decided owning a hot dog stand would be “fun.” Regulars bring him their fresh-grown vegetables because they know he likes tomatoes and corn. “The customers are as good as the food,” Wilson says. “It sounds clichéd, but it’s true.”

Customers must feel loyal to Wilson or his fare, overcoming the parking lot that is more like an exalted shoulder to trek to his stand at Muddy Creek Liquors on Rt. 214 at Muddy Creek Road. Wilson, in turn, must have an eye for success, as he chose his location because “it looked like a good place.”

Chance brought Wilson to this spot, but he takes feeding the hungry seriously. A few weeks after he opened, hurricane Isabelle hit the East Coast, leaving many Chesapeake citizens with no place to go for a warm meal. Except to Wilson. “I had people lined up to the gravel,” he says. “When I ran out of food, I felt so darn bad.”

Over at Home Depot, Mayhew professes the same dedication to her customers. “The regulars keep you going,” she says.

Last September, Mayhew, 34, bought her business from friends who had run the stand for seven years. Mayhew, who worked at a propane company, had never run a business. But college business courses convinced her she’d be fine. And she is, aside from the accounting, which she hires out.

“The stand is my baby,” Mayhew says. So all the responsibility falls on her shoulders. “If we run out of lemonade and we didn’t order enough lemons, it’s no one’s fault but mine,” says Mayhew.

Says Wilson, “I’m only as good as my last dog.”

Maybe owning a business is the American dream and the hot dog is the American food because they’re both satisfying. At the end of the day, Mayhew and Wilson are the ones who get to hear the customers say, I don’t know what I would do if you weren’t here.

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