Hot Dog Man expands

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2011

By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Fans of the Hot Dog Man, rejoice! Brent Walsh, who has run the hot dog stand at Lowe’s for the past six years, is expanding. He hopes to open a restaurant, American Grill, sometime in August at the Webb Road Flea Market.
The restaurant will be open 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and feature Walsh’s customer favorites of hot dogs, sausages and fresh-squeezed lemonade. He’ll also add hamburgers to the menu, and serve breakfast and lunch.
For now, though, customers can find Brent where they’ve always found him, outside Lowe’s 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 7 days a week.
“People say I’m consistent and persistent,” he says.
Brent started this business when the Winn-Dixie where he worked closed.
“I was over 50 and I couldn’t get a job,” says Brent, now 56. He’d been working ever since he was 17, first in his dad’s store, then at a country store with his brother. He’s worked in the produce business, and he’s worked at a gas station.
“I’ve been self-employed most of my life,” he says.
He takes about three days off in the summer. Other than that, you’ll find him beneath the multi-colored umbrellas.
He sells eight types of hot dogs and sausages, which he tops with any number of traditional condiments, including coleslaw, onions and homemade chili.
“The homemade chili is what sells it,” he notes.
Customers can wash it all down with fresh-squeezed lemonade that’s just the right combination of sweet and tart.
“That’s a big seller this time of year,” Brent says.
The lemonade is what brings Michael Archie to the stand.
“I love the homemade lemonade,” he says, “and the hot dogs are the best in town. I see little businesses and try to support them.”
Most folks, Brent says, go for his combo, which consists of two hot dogs or one sausage, chips and a drink for $5.
“People don’t even look at the sign any more,” he says.
Of course, he has many regular customers who work at Lowe’s, and walk-in traffic is key to his business.
“I have a lunch crowd, just like a restaurant,” he says.
His business follows Lowe’s business, and his busiest time of year in spring.
He used to serve a lot of contractors, who came to buy lunch for their crews. No more.
“They’re struggling,” he says. “It trickles all the way down to people like me.”
Still, on a good day, he’ll sell 200 hot dogs.
One of his regulars is Richard Brown, who’s at Lowe’s twice a day getting supplies for home renovations. He also calls the hot dogs the best in town.
Other regulars are Mayor Susan Kluttz and husband Bill, who sometimes stop by on the way to the lake.
“I love the hot dogs,” says the mayor, who counts the treat among her splurges. “They are really delicious.”
Brent always keeps extra shoes and a change of clothes, especially in the winter, when he can often get wet setting up on a rainy day. The only thing that keeps him away, he says, is ice and snow, although it’s hard to think about that on a sweltering summer morning. Two fans keep him cool when the weather gets hot — or at least cooler than he’d be otherwise.
“I have the best customers,” Brent says. “It’s a pleasure to do this. It’s not like sitting in a cubicle.”
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.