Food stand entrepreneur
This month I spoke with Santeda Hinton, who owns and operates the Freezo’s Hot Dog Stand at the Durham Transportation Station.
Q How did you get the idea of opening a hotdog stand?
A I didn’t want to work for somebody else. I was a CNA (certified nursing assistant) and I cried every day—it just wasn’t for me. I really needed to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss. So I bought a food cart from US Trailer Store (online). It was delivered, and we put it together, added wheels, and removed the weird tape that was on it. I can cook the hotdogs on it, there’s a place to keep them warm, there’s storage for condiments, and it has a big umbrella. I learned everything I needed to learn by watching YouTube videos for food care vendors. I learned lots of tricks and tips and came up with my own secret ingredients (which I can’t tell you about!)
Q Are you a one-person operation?
A My boyfriend has the other cart—we have another one that’s for Italian Ice. That’s why our stands are called “Freezo”—that’s my boyfriend’s nickname. He used to do painting and construction and we decided to go into business together. My cousin, Tyrika Hartsfields, is here helping me today.
Q So what is a typical day like?
A I get up at 6 or 7am, make the chili—yes, it’s homemade—cut up the onions, get the kids’ day started and see them off, and then leave the house between 9:30 and 10:30. My boyfriend has his Italian ice cart over on the south side and I’m here at the downtown bus station. I serve at least 200 hotdogs a day, sometimes more. I have a variety of customers, plus lots of regulars—people riding the bus, bus drivers, construction workers, downtown workers. … I stay until I sell out, between 3 and 5pm.
I really have to keep an eye on the weather. Even though I have a big umbrella, I don’t want to be out here in the rain.
Q What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to expand?
A Yes! I already have two additional food carts. I’m working on the paperwork right now (you have to get the okay and certification grade from the Durham County Department of Public Health). Right now I’m trying to figure out who’s going to work them. I also plan to expand my menu and start making philly cheese steaks, and in the wintertime, cornbread muffins and chili.
And also, within two years, I want to own a nail shop and a cleaning business. That means I’ll be putting some people to work.
Q What’s the best thing about being a food cart entrepreneur?
A Being my own boss and meeting new people. My past job working at Walmart gave me my customer-service skills and I know how to help my customers get over having a rough day.