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Working: A day on the job in south Pinellas County

By JOHN REINAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 26, 2002

JENEL KOEHLER, 20

Hot dog vendor

St. Petersburg

How long have you been doing this?

Two weeks. I'm buying the hot dog cart from Pawn Depot (5198 34th St. N), and they told me to go ahead and set up outside until I pay it off.

So you're just getting started.

Yes, I hope to have a bunch of 'em in a couple of years. I call it "Cameron's Cart" -- that's my middle name. I think it's a good name to put on the umbrellas.

What are your expansion plans?

I hope to have carts at major events, baseball games, high school sporting events -- anywhere I'm allowed.

What got you interested in vending?

When I first moved to Florida in 1989 there were hot dog ladies all up and down the roads, and I always thought that I wanted to do that. I also want to work for myself.

What other jobs have you had?

I've worked at car washes, I've been a bartender and I was a food vendor at the Renaissance Festival. That's where I got used to vending.

How much did the cart cost you?

The cart was $1,800. But there are also a lot of different fees you have to pay.

Such as?

You have to get a vendor's license -- that's $150. The hotel and restaurant inspection costs $350. Then you have to get a food handler's license. That's $45 for a book to study before you can take the test. You also have to have a letter from the commissary that supplies your cart -- that's another $45.

Did you put up all the money yourself?

My mom (Chris Scanlon) is partners with me. Without my mom, I never would have done this. She pushed me.

What's your favorite thing about this job?

It's mine. I wake up every day saying, "Hey, I've got to go do this, because it's for me -- it's not for anybody else."

What's your least favorite thing?

It's hot. It's really hot.

Why is it so important for you to be independent?

I never really thought about that. I guess I want to own something. I want my name out there, and I want others working for me.

What hours do you work?

I'm here from 9 to 3, but most of the business is between 10 and 2.

What kind of money are you taking in?

On a good day, we probably do between $130 and $150. But we're just getting started.

What's the most popular dog?

The older people like sauerkraut. They'll get sauerkraut, mustard and onions. The younger people want ketchup, mustard and relish.

Have you had any surprises?

People are much nicer than I expected. I talk to at least 150 people a day. After working in a bar, it's nice to deal with working people that are sober.

If you could have your dream job, what would it be?

I want to take my cart to the beach.

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