Business has run cold at a local hot dog cart.
Freedom Franks, a food cart operated by the nonprofit Freedom House, temporarily shut down June 15. The stand was forced to close in the face of low customer volume and competition but hopes to reopen in August.
“We basically started too soon,” said Freedom House program director Jay Patrick. “It was going well in terms of operation — there just wasn’t enough traffic.”
Freedom Franks is located in the Conrad Center Soup Kitchen parking lot on Oliver Hill Way. The Freedom House hoped to sell food to construction workers at the site of Richmond’s new jail project across the street.
But Patrick said there are fewer workers at the site than the Freedom House expected. The cart was serving about 30 customers each day in May and June. Patrick hopes business will pick up when more workers arrive next month.
The stand opened May 7, almost four months after the jail’s January groundbreaking. Construction will continue at the site until late 2014. Patrick said Freedom Franks hoped to stay open at the jail site until construction finished.
The hot dog cart is also competing with a food truck that pulls up to the entrance of the work site each day. Freedom Franks sits on the other side of Oliver Hill Way, a six-lane highway.
Patrick hopes a better location will bring more business to Freedom Franks. He plans to move the cart across the street to get closer to the jail or take it downtown to the financial district.
Freedom Franks began with a $5,000 gift from MeadWestvaco this spring. The Freedom House found the cart on Craigslist for $4,000, and Tom’s Meat and Produce supplied the cart with meat at cost.
Hot dogs, barbecue, chicken salad and tuna salad were menu staples, and most of the food was cooked in the Conrad Center’s kitchen.
The cart was staffed by two Freedom House shelter residents. They are working temporary jobs until Freedom Franks can reopen, Patrick said.
Freedom House provides housing and job placement services for the homeless in the Richmond area. The organization houses 46 people between its Community Shelter and Sean’s Place transitional living facility.
Freedom House also serves more than 200 meals each day at the Conrad Center Soup Kitchen.
Patrick said there should be plenty of business for Freedom Franks when more workers get to the jail site, and it won’t take huge margins to keep the stand open.
“We didn’t start this out to make an immense amount of profit,” Patrick said. “The ultimate goal was to create jobs and gain exposure for the Freedom House.”