Food stuff

Jun 23, 1999 at 12:00 am


Jerry Mobley has the ideal summer job.

Surrounded by a cloudless blue sky, the noontime sun shines bright enough to burn. As hints of cool breeze in from the Detroit River, Mobley stands at his hot dog cart parked on Jefferson near the City-County Building.

He kicks back on a plastic lawn chair, shaded by a broad umbrella as he reads a newspaper.

The downtime doesn’t last long. A city worker pulls up in a truck and shouts for a hot one with ketchup, mustard and onions. Mobley is on his feet, a plastic glove slipped over one hand, holding a bun as he dips tongs into a steaming tray of water filled with floating wieners.

Pretty soon the lunch crowd is lined up five deep waiting for service that comes with a quick smile.

"You can’t come in with a bad attitude," explains the 37-year-old Mobley. "You can’t do no business with a bad attitude. People pick up on the negative vibes."

It’s also tough doing business when the rain pours down or the mercury drops, which is why Mobley is a hot dog man only from April until late fall. "I stay out until I start freezing my butt off," he says.

Mobley, who’s been pushing dogs for the past four years, works for a vending-machine company that owns the cart he staffs. It’s quite a contraption – stainless steel, propane-fired, with a built-in sink. All the amenities you need on two wheels with a trailer hitch, so it can be packed up and hauled in each night.

A normal day is usually 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with about 120 hot dogs and another 50 or so Polish sausages getting slipped into buns.

On weekends, though, when there’s a special event at Hart Plaza, Mobley sometimes puts in a 12-hour shift.

"The money’s not bad," says Mobley, "and you get to work with the public."

Does he ever flirt with the pretty office workers who line up at his stand?

The question makes him laugh.

"My fiancée works over there at the City Clerk’s Office," smiles Mobley. "I met her working here. I used to flirt, before I met her, but not any more."

Then he smiles some more and adds, "I still look, though."

Customers seem to come in waves, so Mobley takes advantage of the slack time to clean up his cart. He runs a tight ship, going so far as to take a paper towel to the top of the ketchup dispenser that’s been getting a thorough workout.

A couple of elementary school kids walking past start to chant, "Get your hot dogs. Get your red-hot hot dogs."

Mobley looks up at them and smiles through the sunshine. – Curt Guyette


Drink to support WDET-FM at a wine tasting to be held at the Big Rock Chop and Brew House (245 S. Eton, Birmingham), this Sunday, June 27, 2 p.m.—5 p.m.. Tickets are $45 per person, the wine is Australian. … Meijer recently donated 400 cases of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to the Food Bank of Oakland County, but there’s still a shortage of food there – call 248-332-1473 to find out what’s needed to go with the macaroni.