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In Recessionary Times, It's a Dog Eat Dog World

From Sarah E. Needleman/The Wall Street Journal: 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. "Every model is...taking off," says Joel Goetz, owner of American Dream Hot Dog Carts Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla. Since January, he has sold about 25 carts a week, 15 more than usual.

"Business is really off the charts," says Dan Jackson, a division manager at Nation's Leasing Services in Newbury Park, Calif. Leases for hot-dog carts account for about three-quarters of sales, and revenue is triple what it was this time a year ago, he says.

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., a New York cart manufacturer. "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. READ FULL ARTICLE


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