Many big name restaurants spend a considerable amount of time and resources to develop their brand’s association with an individual. Kentucky Fried Chicken, before it became simply KFC, was closely tied to Colonel Harland Sanders. Dave Thomas named his fast food restaurant, “Wendy’s” after his fourth child. Mr. Thomas later became the face of the franchise though Wendy’s image is still the official trademark. And of course, Ben and Jerry’s would just be ice cream without its namesake founders and their innovative marketing.
Brian Murphy’s brightly colored cart is located just north of the Alleghany County Courthouse at the corner of North Main and East Doughton Streets. He is a noticeable feature along Main Street. While it may not have been an intentional marketing strategy, the Sparta resident has come to enjoy hearing children cry out, “Hey, Hot Dog Man!”
Born in Connecticut, Brian has spent his life almost evenly split in thirds between Miami, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; and for the last 17 years, Sparta, NC. He spent years working the docks handling freight before landing in Alleghany County.
As KFC or Wendy’s will attest, a colorful and interesting personality may draw people in, but it takes good food to bring them back. Brian serves up an all-beef, ¼ pound Nathan’s Jumbo hot dog that seems much too large for the bun. In addition to the usual toppings, sauerkraut and jalapenos gives Murphy’s hot dog a big city flavor. As the weather warms, smoked sausage along with steak and cheese brats will be added to the menu. The cart carries a 96 point inspection rating and the health inspector stops by often to check that the temperatures meet the required levels.
A while back Brian faced competition from an unexpected source (it is an interesting story, but its Brian’s story to tell). That experience left him awed by the loyalty of his customers. This winter he faced some serious challenges in the form of single digit temperatures. But, after the backing of a loyal customer base, Brian felt he owed them the loyalty of braving those cold, windy days to man the hotdog stand.
It would make the perfect story to report that Brian’s hot dog cart is wildly, monetarily successful. The truth is a single rainy day eats into the week’s profit. Like many small business owners, he works other part-time jobs to help make ends meet. It ain’t easy being the Hot Dog Man.
Brian Murphy takes life at his own pace, on his own terms. In true mountain fashion, he treasures his independence and is making his way one hot dog at a time.