I love getting to post a feel good story about the community coming together to help one of their own. Originally I was going to re-write the Little League Press Release but it does such a good job of telling the story I’m posting the entire release and adding a few pictures from The Hot Dog Man RVA Facebook page.
The 2012 storms have left their mark on the metro Richmond area but the actions of many kind people have left their mark on the heart of one local small businessman.
Approximately 2:30 pm on June 25th, 2012 various storms blew through metro Richmond. High sporadic winds hit the food cart trailer of Jerome Sanders located in front of Main Street Station in Shockoe, lifting the cart with Sanders inside, before crashing down and bursting it apart. Sanders was thankfully unharmed and through the help of neighbors and friends most of the equipment was salvaged within minutes. However, Sanders’ cart was beyond repair and he was out of business. Within days after the event, friends rallied around Sanders with offers of help. Greatly moved by the show of support from everyone, Sanders accepted the offer from the Richmond Little League board to put the word out to his baseball family and raise funds on his behalf. To Sanders amazement, over $12,000 came quickly and within 4 weeks Sanders was back in the hot dog business with a new fully-equipped food trailer.
Sanders, aka The Hot Dog Man, started his hot dog business in 2006 on a shoestring, with a small used portable 3 wheeled cart with an umbrella. At first, he sold hot dogs at various locations around the city. He soon grew his business and obtained a food trailer and was then contracted by area Richmond City Park and Recreation facilities to provide refreshments at youth football, basketball and soccer events. Sanders has always loved sports and working these events and helping kids was very important to him.
Through these efforts, Sanders was introduced to Benny Callahan, in 2007, who was deeply involved with the Richmond Little League (RLL). With this meeting, Sanders’ hot dog business found a home with the RLL and with hard work and an ever present smile, his business grew so he himself was able to sponsor a team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Sanders continued work as a street vendor as well, finding a permanent spot in front of Main Street Station in Historic Shockoe. Dividing his time between this location and the ball fields had been his mainstay until that destructive storm (the National Weather Service later called the storms a “massive wind event”) drastically changed his situation.
Immediately after the storm passed loyal customers and friends made offers of help. Some offered to rebuild his trailer. Local food truck owner, Jennifer Mindell of Rooster Cart, offered a cooperative fundraising idea with other local food truck vendors. Shockoe business owner, Mary Fender of Frame Nation helped Sanders create a facebook page and also shared internet fundraising ideas, like kickstarter, with Sanders. Says Fender “The Hot Dog Man is a important member of our Shockoe community. He provides a quick lunch for locals and since he is so close to Main Street Station, riders on the MegaBus and trains benefit too. Plus, I’d really miss him. Jerome always has a smile and kind word for everyone he sees.”
The RLL board and the young players were also very concerned for their friend when they heard the news of the Sanders’ food trailer destruction. Read F. Goode, Jr. , an active RLL Parent, suggested they “pass the hat” for The Hot Dog Man. “Jerome is an integral part of the RLL family. He feeds us and keeps everyone happy with his smile, great attitude, and incredible dogs. With my background in commercial real estate development and restaurant construction I figured that I would take the lead and pull together a team of vendors and professionals that could get Jerome back in business fast. ” says Goode. Things moved quickly at that point and Sanders gratefully went with the RLL plan to get him back in business. Passing the hat idea turned an email blast sent by RLL board member, Elizabeth Wallace, to all RLL families (past and present), telling about Jerome’s situation. Donations rolled in via US mail and at the end, over $12,000.00 was raised. “These donations came pouring in from many RLL families (ranging from $15 to $2,000). It became very obvious that Jerome has had a positive impact on so many players, families, and friends at Byrd Park and that many jumped at the chance to help such a good man.” said Wallace.
New, fully equipped food trailers cost $20,000 which was totally out of the question. The initial major decision to make was to either build a new one from scratch or to purchase a lightly used one and then outfit it from there. RLL Board Members lead by Tom Willingham scoured the web for used trailers. The leads were funneled to Goode who reviewed and ranked each one on its technical merits. Ultimately a brand new trailer that had been custom fabricated for a vendor who later had a heart attack was located in Greensborough, N.C. The dealer needed to get rid of it for cost as he too had taken ill. Goode and Sanders drove down south, cut the deal and towed her back home.
Back in Richmond, Mo Roman, a professional restaurant kitchen designer and contractor, took over and designed and outfitted the interior to meet Sander’s needs. Over $4,000.00 of brand new kitchen equipment was purchased and installed.
Through all the help and support Sanders has received, he has been extremely moved and thankful. “After the storm totaled my trailer, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was able to use most that was salvaged but Health inspectors don’t allow ‘open aired‘ food vendors.” says Sanders. “I can’t thank Read and the RLL family enough for all they have done for me. I am truly blessed.”
Sanders is truly back in business, with a new expanded menu and excitement to return to service his friends and customers at the ball field and in Shockoe.
For more about the Richmond Little League http://richmondll.com