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February 16, 2006

15 Questions for Scott Barton


Scott Barton has hot dogs on his mind. He's about to become the Arcata Plaza's next hot-dog man, and he's on a mission. He means to make a bunch of money, sure, but he also hopes to clear panhandlers off the Arcata Plaza and tourism back to the city center.

Barton's life has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He went to BYU in Utah and was raised Mormon. He was a U.S. Marine for eight years, a police officer in Utah, a carpenter, a construction worker and a caseworker for the Arcata Endeavor, an organization that provides services to the homeless and needy of Arcata.

Though he no longer does case work, he still works at the Endeavor -- but not for much longer. As of March 1 he will open Arcata's only hot-dog stand. He plans to rope in the bar crowd by night and clear out the "Plaza kids" by day.

1. Why do you want to be the next hot-dog cart man?

Basically, I got kind of tired of working for other people. I worked for Yakima, I worked here (at The Endeavor), I worked for the military. I kind of wanted to be my own boss. I didn't want a bunch of bullshit I had to answer to every day. I wanted to set my own schedule, and I wanted to be able to spend time with my kid.

2. So how did you get started up with the hot-dog cart?

I started thinking about it. After a while [I thought that] okay, I need to go talk the people that were there before. There are two women that had it, and before them there was this older gentleman, Don [Kolshinski], that had it. When I started talking to them I started formulating the plan for the cart. I talked to them and they were like, "It's so great."

3. Was it hard to get the license and permits?

Basically, you have to go through six departments to be approved. Parks and Rec, waste disposal -- everybody has to get their John Hancock on this. Then you have to have a million-dollar liability insurance policy because you're on city property, which costs about $1,800 a year. On top of that they're going to get you for $85 a month for your vendor's permit, $25 a year for your food handler's permit, $40 a year for your business license, and then that's not even counting supplies yet. And then the cart cost me $2,800.

4. You said you were going to be the only street vendor, but what about the taco trucks and such? They aren't in the same category?

No, because they are in a set place. You see, I can move anywhere in the city. I can go to Redwood Park, I can go all the way up to the university but I can't actually go on to the campus. I can sit right up here, right in front of the baseball park, sell hot dogs to the people before they go in. Their concession people might get pissed, but hey, you know what, I paid mine.

5. Is your hot-dog cart going to be any different from your predecessors'?

Here's where I thought the other carts went wrong. All the other carts were there during the day. They had a great run. You know, Don was making $2,500 a week in profit. When I told him what I was going to do he said you're probably looking at $5,000 to $6,000 per week in profit. After 10 p.m. on the Plaza there's no place to eat unless you go to Don's Donuts or wait in the line at New York Pizza and Deli.

My cart, I can move from where the corner is, where all the kids congregate -- that's my first stop during the day. I'm doing that so we can clear that out of those kids. I'm not afraid of those kids. Clear them out and we can get more of our senior citizens back to the Plaza, for Farmers' Market, for all of the stuff that we're doing. We need those people to come here. I would rather have older people around my kid than these kids, to tell you the truth. I mean, I'm not trying to say that I'm jaded or anything, but hey, I've been here [at the Endeavor] for five years. I've seen what this place turns out. And the staff here -- I take my hat off to them every one of them.

6. How is having the cart on that corner going to clear the kids out?

People are telling me the homeless people will always be hitting me up for hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs. And I started thinking about it. And I said, "Well, when they hit me up like that, why don't I just send them to John [Shelter, director of the Arcata Endeavor]?" And they can do half an hour's worth of work for the Endeavor and then John will sign a little piece of paper, and they can give me the piece of paper and I'll give them two hot dogs and a soda.

7. Are you going to be reimbursed by The Endeavor?

I don't know. If not, I can just write it off on my taxes.

8. Do you see this as some kind of solution to the problem some people have with the current state of the Plaza?

It's one person's solution. Any way I can make the City Council look dumb, I'm doing it.

9. Do you think it will make the Arcata City Council look bad because they didn't think of it first?

Yeah. They're so busy trying to impeach Bush or whatever else that they're not concentrating on our own community. They should be listening to me rather than coming up with their own agendas and going nowhere with them.

10. Are you going to sell just regular hot dogs?

During the day with my hot-dog cart I'm selling soy hot dogs. On my business license I can have two fictitious business names. So during the day it will be called Weiner Soy, and at night it will be called Scott's Atomic Hot Dogs.

11. Why not sell both at the same time?

I pondered that question, too. Because the vegans have a problem with cross-contamination with meat products.

12. So when do you open?

March 1. I'll be there Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights. During the day I'll be there Monday through Sunday. I'll be there till about 5 o'clock.

13. What kind of condiments will you have?

Everything. Chili, cheese, sauerkraut, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, catsup.

14. What are your prices going to be?

Three dollars for two hot dogs and a soda. All natural sodas.

15. What if it doesn't work? What if you don't make money?

I don't see that I'm not going to make money. I've got the perfect ploy. I want the bar crowd. Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., those kids are going to try to knock my cart over to get a hot dog. I don't see any problem. I've talked to every bar owner on the Plaza. And every one of them are all for it. I know it can be done.


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