Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC

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SpiffysRedHots
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2009/07/01 02:56:17 (permalink)

Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC

Hi all,

I'd like to introduce myself to the Roadfood.com forums and say how much I've enjoyed lurking on these boards the past couple of weeks.  My wife and I are in the process of starting up a hot dog cart business in the Raleigh area and I have been scanning these boards to gather as much information I can to help with our start up.

Recently, I have been laid off from my project manager position with a national multifamily development company of 10 years.  My wife was laid off two days later from her construction accounting position, leaving us with a lot of time on our hands.  Since mid April, we have been searching side by side for jobs on the internet, sending out resumes, going on a few interviews, signing up for unemployment, basically brain storming on what we're going to do, hopefully before the savings run out, which is going to be sooner than later.

One night a couple weeks ago, we were watching the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives program on the Food HD channel (one of our favorite shows) and a show came on after it which had a segment about the WillyDog Cart Company and how they make hot dog carts.  I got on the internet and low and behold they have an excellent site regarding the HD cart business.  I quickly realized the potential the HD business has for someone willing to put in the work.  That got me doing other searches and the more I started doing my research to more I got excited.  Being in the construction industry, I have eaten at my share of "Roach Coaches", err hmm "Mobile Food Units", and have always appreciated the jobs they do, the service they provide to our sites and the money they make.

My wife is from Chicago and she has enlightened me on the authentic Chicago Style Hot Dog, complete with the neon relish and the celery salt.  I never had a Chicago dog before and never even heard of celery salt!  She made some at home and they're da bomb.  She is a true Chicago dog snob and throws her nose up at the bad imitations.  We met in Colorado and have moved over the years to Maryland and now to Raleigh, but always try to find a place to get her dog fix.  We even made a point to stop and grab a Vienna Beef dog and Italian beef sammy the last time we were in her old hood of Palatine, IL.

One of my favorite dogs I have had was from a cart vendor in Denver, Jabo's BBQ.  He made a creation called the Jabo Dog which consisted of a jumbo beef frank topped with pulled pork or beef brisket then topped with some of the best BBQ sauces I've ever tasted...the thing was huge!  He only worked his trailer/cart on Mon, Weds & Fri's and cooked his meats on his off days. He got quite a following and all drive by traffic.  I always admired his little business and how much he enjoyed his work and how long his lines were.

We are planning to operate our cart during lunch hours during the week and get into weekend special events.  We hope to add additional carts as the business grows, using my 17 year old as slave labor.  We have been around town scouting locations and have talked to a few cart operators in our area and have gotten very valuable info as to this region and the cart business in general here in Raleigh.  We have decided to go with a TopDogCart with a 24" griddle.  We have found that many people in this area prefer grilled dogs verses the steamed, aka "dirty water dogs".  Although there are many vendors with both setups, we have found that the grille we allow us to expand the menu later on as we get a larger customer base and hopefully come up with some of our own creations.

We have requested a meeting with the Health Dept. to review our cart designs and get some face time with the inspector to ask a lot of questions.  We presently don't have a commisary, but with some of our recent cart contacts, hope to share his commisary.  If not, we will continue to search for one.  Any ideas anyone might have would be appreciated.  We are in process with the city license and insurance and hope that will be finalized soon.

Without a doubt we are pushing for Vienna Beef dogs, my wife wouldn't have it any other way.  But of course price is an issue, as well as local suppliers.  I have seen the forums on the availability of Vienna Beef in Charlotte but have yet to see anything on a Raleigh source.  We have the name & number of the regional rep for VB in Atlanta and will be contacting him tomorrow.  Hopefully it will be reasonable, I just can't see doing this without Vienna Beef.  I may have to travel to Charlotte to get VB if necessary.  Next is the poppy seed buns, S. Rosen is our choice, but once again delivery to Raleigh may be too pricey.  Any help here would be appreciated. 

I would love to procure a location at a Lowe's or Home Depot, especially with my construction background, however I know these spots usually have third party company nationally managing these locations.  Most of the Lowe's I've been to already have a vendors working their stores, however nobody seems to be at the local Home Depot.  Has anyone had any luck with getting a spot at a Home Depot?  I would be interested in some of your insight.

I know there are many items that I am overlooking and haven't discussed.  I have been lurking on these boards long enough, I feel I actually know some of you.  I honestly appreciate the leadership and counseling that many of you have given so freely to the many that desire your wisdom.  Any advise or guidance from the cart veterans here would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,
Darren
#1

35 Replies Related Threads

    hotdog506
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 07:00:09 (permalink)
    Good Luck in your venture!   Performance Food Group(PFG) carries a full line of Vienna Beef  Hotdogs but i don't know if they service your area.   they are HQ'd in Gainesville, Ga.
     
     
    #2
    BillyB
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 07:36:26 (permalink)
    Hi Spiff and Wife, Welcome and good luck with you new business. You sound like a nice guy and want nothing but the best for you and your wife. I think its also a good idea to have both in the business.
      My only problem is, your taking something from Chicago and moving it down to NC. Is it easier to do whats alreay accepted in the South, rather than try to reeducate all the people into another way of eating their dogs. In talking with some of the old timers in this business on this site you will find that in the South they serve baked beans on dogs, Slaw dogs are big and many others. People in the south grow up with these food triditions and they may be hard to break.
      I did a Build your own Hoagie bar for my client out West and I offered them a Cold cut combo with all the toppings. I fed 300 people and only one person knew what a cold cut combo or Italian sub is. He was from Chicago, and said I love this. Well that was one in 300. Most people wanted what they were used to eating, some wanted all ham and cheese, some wanted just turkey. and some just wanted Roast beef almost no one wanted Salami. My point is, They wanted a Hoagie they were used to eatting, they know nothing about whats served in Chicago, New York or any place else. They only know what they know.....My question to you is..Why are they going to buy a Chicago dog in NC. ..........................Good luck......Bill
    #3
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 09:33:11 (permalink)
     
    Have to ask question. When you go out to eat and order slaw is it mayo or vinegar based. Will tell about your area.
    Have alot of transplants in the triangle there.
    post edited by Curbside Grill - 2009/07/01 10:00:06
    #4
    cwood3
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 10:04:03 (permalink)
    Darren,

    Go for it.  I too was recently layed-off.  I'm a process/mechanical engineer of 25 years.  The last 5 years or so I have been doing some sideline catering, mostly BBQ and smoked meats.  I always had this hotdog cart vision.  I'm in Houston and there are no cart vendors to speak of, just greasy taco stands.  My TopDog cart should be delivered tomorrow.  I have a gig at a bar for the 4th.  I am probably going to do a Lowe's or Home Depot nearby.  StreatEats does the contract paperwork.  An acquaintance said it's about $360 month lease.  Good choice on the cart.  Jim is a great guy as is his support staff.  Your local health department should be delighted you have a good rig, first class.  Our hearts are in the same place.  I wish you and yours the best.  We are doing the right thing .  If ya wanna talk about it more send me a PM.  You guys have support and encouragement out there.

    Curtis
    The Dawg Stop LLC
    Houston, Texas
    #5
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 10:06:30 (permalink)
    My $0.02 stay away from Home Depot. You will be charged a big rent for nothing. You are to be there at all store hours. 7 days a week. Been alot of threads on this subject.
    #6
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 10:53:41 (permalink)
    Thanks for the quick responses,

    Hotdog506 - After a quick search, we do have a PFG close by so we will be contacting them later today to see if they can supply VB to us. Thanks.

    BillyB - Excellent point!  Maybe there's a reason there aren't many Chicago Style dog stands in Raleigh.  We are planning to offer different toppings as well as the Chicago fixins, such as chili & cheese, slaw, and kraut.  After watching the business at some of the local carts, we noticed that 50% of the dogs sold were with chili, a few added slaw, a few kraut.  We want to give the customers what they want and give them enough choices.  If it were up to my wife she would forbid ketchup on the cart, but I know that isn't feasible.

    Curbside - We have come across both styles of slaw in this area, both creamy and vinegar based.  I'm not a big fan of the vinegar based slaws and prefer the creamier ones.  We'll have to do some more research on the slaw before choosing a product. 



    #7
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 11:22:32 (permalink)
    Curtis,

    Thanks for the encouragement and the info on StreatEats and Lowe's.  You're right about Jim and TopDog, they're great people to talk to and I hope to put in my order after our HD meeting.


    Curbside,

    Thanks for the Home Depot warning. I will consult the forums further about it.  Maybe that why there isn't a vendor there now.


    Darren
    #8
    cwood3
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 12:13:54 (permalink)
    I'd be the first person to stand up and speak out against paying for a place to stick a cart.  Seriously, I feel like the mob is alive and well.  The thing about Home Depot's and Lowe's is that there is gauranteed steady foot traffic.  I'm not so sure about operating hours, but I have an acquaintance that did one from just 11-3 on weekends for a while.  It has a lot to do with the store manager.  In my case, I am friends with the store manager.  I am also considering doing the night gigs at bars that do not serve food.  Where I live, there are quite a few.  I have been a patron at most of them.  Weekend events and festivals, heck yea.  Just check on the expected crowd as opposed to the 10'x10' space rental.  Just my thoughts.  I am new, but I will survive.

    curtis
    #9
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/01 14:57:23 (permalink)
    Need to go here, an institution in Raleigh.
    No ketchup, vinegar slaw, chili,sauers mustard www.roastgrill.com/
    #10
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/02 08:05:25 (permalink)
    Bet all the viennas are skinless from dist., being in the south.
    Chili,slaw, onions, maybe cheese.
    You are in E.NC no mayo in slaw.
    Have a Chicago transplant here and all he wants on a dog is diced tomato and celery salt. His version of home.
    Southern Dogs are underated. Our Chili,Our Slaw(mine different than yours),
    Chicago Dogs are like going to Big Archs. Same dog,same bun, same condiments. Here everything is yours, plus personality. Just start with quality products cannot go wrong. thing of beauty


     
    Don't get me wrong, I love Chicago Dogs, I love regional food, As the song says, "Don't Rock The Boat". 
    Tryed crashed and burned.
    My $0.02
    post edited by Curbside Grill - 2009/07/02 08:19:49
    #11
    lplecroy
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/02 10:17:33 (permalink)
    Hey Mr West,


    I help local businesses in NC to reach their financial goals and needs. I have worked with many restaurants and businesses like yourself.
    First off, congrats! That will do very well in that location. Secondly, feel free to give me a call for a free sit down to talk about some things. I'll buy you some lunch or a hot dog to compare!


    Laura P LeCroy

    919-876-0502 Ext 7304
    #12
    wtango
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/02 10:47:51 (permalink)
    Spiffys-
    I'm in Asheville, NC, but am from Chicago and LOVE Chicago-style dogs.  Also like NY style, and Carolina (slaw and chili).  So having a variety is a smart way to go.

    There is a restaurant in Asheville (Cats n Dawgs) that have Vienna Beef dogs, so chances are good that you'll be able to get them in Raleigh.

    Great idea to sell in Lowe's/Home Depot lots.  A friend of mine and I have been saying for years that a hot dog cart would kill in those spots.  Sorry we didn't follow up on that years ago!

    One bit of advice- stay passionate and dedicated to your product and customers.  When that element is gone, it's time to pack up and find another career.  I've seen too many good restaurants fall into that rut.

    Great idea, best of luck to you!
    #13
    ann peeples
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/02 11:01:59 (permalink)
    As a consumer, I agree with wtango-have a variety including a Chicago style.I travel to Raleigh once a year or so, and while I love the types of dogs they serve, I would like a Chicago stlye.Plus, we have a cousin there, and we got her hooked onChi style.I have to send her the "kits" from the Vienna site so she can have her fix. She would definately frequent your cart!!Good luck, and let us know how things are coming along...
    #14
    alexlock85
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/08 16:14:22 (permalink)
    I too am planning to open up a cart in the Raleigh area. I'm thinking of just working at the fairgrounds/flea market until I have established myself and can find a good spot that I don't have to pay an arm and a leg to use...
     
    My hotdogs are going to be true southern style dogs: red (fried) dogs, steamed buns, onions, mustard, and a famous spicy meatless chili that was inspired by "Bill's Hot Dogs" in Washington,NC...
     
    Good luck with your cart and hopefully we will run into one another at one point in time. Let me know how your luck goes with finding a commissary.
    #15
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/07/17 20:20:52 (permalink)
    I did some more checking on the StreetEats & Lowe's contracts and they require you to have 2 years experience in the push cart business before approving a location, so will forge on and consider this down the road.

    Curbside - went to the Roast Grille last week and was amazed at George and his place.  Smallest little place doing tons of business.  We got there early and it was still standing room only.  Both my wife and I got 2 dogs each, they were so good I wanted a few more but he was so busy I couldn't wait at the back of the line for em.  We'll be back and order appropriately next time.

    Wtango & Ann - Thanks for your advice.  We will keep an open mind about the menu, give a variety of toppings and adjust it as the customer base demands it.  Like you, we feel there is a market for a Chicago Style dog in this area.

    Alex - Have you had any luck with your commissary yet?  We are still looking for ours but our supplier has some accounts that he may be able to help us out.  We'll have to wait and see.

    We finally have our office consultation meeting scheduled for next week with the Health Department to review our cart schematics and menu plans.  Hopefully we'll be able to place our order for our cart immediately after this meeting.

    Thanks all,
    Darren

    #16
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/22 13:47:51 (permalink)
    I haven't posted in a while because I've been busy trying to get our business up and running, so time for an update.  

    Since I posted last we have been very busy.  We attended HotDogU in Chicago with Mark Reitman at the end of August, which we found very informative and great to get back to Chicago for some authentic Chicago Dogs at the Vienna Beef Factory Store & Deli.  The day we got back from Chicago, we were all set to put our order in for a new TopDogCart, but before I did I checked Craig's List out of Orlando, where I heard there were more carts for sale in Orlando then most other areas.  We lucked out and found a 4 month old TopDogCart with exactly everything we wanted on it for a couple thousand less then buying new. So we went down to Orlando and picked it up the next day.  The cart is amazing and extremely clean and we didn't even notice pulling it as we travelled the 635 miles back to Raleigh. 

    We also were able to find our commissary.  We found a newly started catering business that is close to our house.  He agreed to help us out and provide some refrigerated and dry storage space as well as use of his sinks and prep area.  We agreed on a small monthly rent and he also will be providing me with my chopped onions and tomato slices at a nominal per pound price, which will save us a lot of prep time. 

    We applied for and received our Home Occupation Use permit and our Raleigh Business License.

    We submitted into the Health Department and had our commissary and cart inspected and have finally received our vending permit. So technically we're able to operate anywhere in the State.

    We are currently in the process of getting approval from the City of Raleigh to get a spot downtown. They have strict guidelines for the downtown area which include a $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy, which we're trying to get at the moment.  We are trying to get our general commercial insurance, liability, and cart covered, which seems to a little harder then expected.  Our local State Farm rep can get the majority of the coverage we need but can't cover the actual cart due to the use of propane on board.  So we are in search for another option.  I have checked the archives and am currently looking into other companies that can offer us a complete policy.  Once we get this insurance resolved, we can submit our paperwork to get our downtown spot.

    If anyone has or is happy with their insurance company, I would love to hear about it, so I can pursue it as an option.

    We even have our website up and operational (www.penaltyboxdogs.com) as well as our merchant account for us to be able to take credit cards over our iPhones, a big plus and something our competitors aren't doing.  We're hoping to capture the 70% of the population that no longer carries cash around and solely depends on the debt/credit cards and hopefully we generate additional sales because of credit card acceptance.  The app even has a tip option which would allow customers to be able to add a gratuity which would more then pay for any and all the credit card processing fees associated with accepting cards.

    Stay tuned for the grand opening announcement....

    Thanks all,
    Darren







    #17
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/22 15:44:33 (permalink)
    Hope things are going well and good luck. Sell them Dogs.
    #18
    SAOrganGrinder
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/23 07:37:34 (permalink)
    Darren,
    I checked out your web site....www.penaltyboxdogs.com....Very nice....I was going to sent you an E-mail but there was no link to contact you....
    Looks like you have a great location set up and you should do very well....Good luck and keep us all informed....
    MIke
    #19
    vascout
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/23 09:46:49 (permalink)
    Darren.
    I got my insurance with Nationwide, the agent was very good in putting it all together. $1,000,000 liability at $636.00 a year and everything on the cart coverage for $233.00 year. It was difficult for me as well in finding the necessary coverage until I spoke with this agent. Good luck with it all.
    Larry
    #20
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/23 23:13:01 (permalink)
    SA - Thanks for the input on my site.  There is a contact link but it is on the About page toward the bottom.  I think I should make a separate Contact Page to be more clear.  Thanks for the extra set of eyes.

    Vascout - Thanks, I'll give them a call locally and see what they can do for me.
    #21
    Kiyi
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/24 01:13:08 (permalink)
    $35 dollars per month and i am covered for 1,000,000 plus cart coverage.   You guys pay too much.
    #22
    waydeg
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/24 12:00:04 (permalink)
    www.penaltyboxdogs.com
    SpiffysRedHots
     We even have our website up and operational (www.penaltyboxdogs.com) as well as our merchant account for us to be able to take credit cards over our iPhones, a big plus and something our competitors aren't doing.  We're hoping to capture the 70% of the population that no longer carries cash around and solely depends on the debt/credit cards and hopefully we generate additional sales because of credit card acceptance.  The app even has a tip option which would allow customers to be able to add a gratuity which would more then pay for any and all the credit card processing fees associated with accepting cards.




    Spiff - what iPhone app are you using? You make a brilliant point regarding the lack of cash in folks pockets now days. I rarely carry around more than $5 and use my debit card in its place to avoid racking up credit card debt. If I don't have it, I can't spend it.
    #23
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/24 12:23:52 (permalink)
    Kiyi - which insurance company are you using?

    waydog - we are using "Credit Card Terminal" by Inner Fence.  Right now it is on sale for $0.99, regularly costs $49.99.  Looks like it will be on sale until 10/31/09.  We also received a $50 iTune card once the Merchant account was set up, which only took a day to finalize.  There are a number of credit card apps that look like would work, we liked this one best due to the fact of the newly added tip feature and the ability to email the customer's receipt directly to them. 
    #24
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/25 07:05:39 (permalink)
    SpiffysRedHots
    Kiyi - which insurance company are you using?

     
    That does not refleck Comm. on cart. 
    #25
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/10/25 13:46:28 (permalink)
    Curbside Grill

    SpiffysRedHots
    Kiyi - which insurance company are you using?

     
    That does not refleck Comm. on cart. 



    My local State Farm agent could get me this insurance as well for about $262/yr, however it wouldn't actually cover any damage to the cart or theft.
    #26
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/11/10 01:34:06 (permalink)
    After much red tape and paperwork, Penalty Box Dogs proudly announces its Grand Opening this Thursday & Friday, 11/12 & 11/13 at our Downtown Raleigh location at the corner of W. Hargett Street & Fayetteville Street.  PBD features only Vienna Beef premium beef hot dogs and sausages with over 18 toppings.

    Thank you to all for your insight and support.
    Darren





    #27
    Curbside Grill
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/11/10 02:03:26 (permalink)
    Thank god we are going now.
    No really, wish the best and knock them over.
    #28
    BillyB
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/11/10 07:21:55 (permalink)
    Best of luck to you and your wife. If you want to promo the Chicago dog then put a dressed sample to show people what it looks like.    Have fun and take pictures............Bill
    #29
    SpiffysRedHots
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    Re:Chicago Style Dogs in Raleigh, NC 2009/12/20 14:50:50 (permalink)

    Billy,

    Here's a few photos of our grand opening, we were so busy that I didn't have time to take any pictures of my own.  But a local photojournalist stopped and took some of our cart and of our "Blackhawk Dog".  I never knew how many windy city transplant there were here in Raleigh.  We have quite a following and only after a month in business.

    Darren



    Photos courtesy of John West Photography
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