It was a TV show that inspired Esteban Guzman to open his own hot dog stand, which is now selling gourmet dogs at Fort Hood.
“I saw ‘Hot Dog Paradise’ on the Travel Channel,” he said. “Then I started doing research.”
He didn’t have the start-up funds for a building, but was able to win free blueprints to build a hot dog stand through a hot dog seller’s blog. He built the stand himself and began selling at Belton Market Days in December 2009.
His business, “Stevie’s Red Hot Wienies,” became a hit and even earned the title of best hot dogs by the readers of the Belton Journal.
Stevie is the nickname his mother has for him, Guzman said, so he used it to create a catchy, rhyming name for his budding side business.
Guzman said Army & Air Force Exchange Service contacted him earlier this year and offered him a 90-day contract to sell on-post. To take the offer, he would have to quit his full-time job as a dispensing clerk for operating rooms at Scott & White in Temple.
“I’d been looking for an opportunity to leave my job,” he said. “I wanted to be my own boss.”
While thinking it over, he heard a radio program discussing occupations and salaries. Of all the occupations in the world, they mentioned hot dog vendors, Guzman said.
“God was talking to me,” he said.
Then he went for it, quit his job and followed his dream. “I love it,” Guzman said of the six weeks he’s been selling dogs on post. “They’ll see my menu and say it takes them back home. It makes me feel good.”
Guzman’s menu ranges from the traditional Chicago dog to a Hawaiian dog to the Reuben dog. He continues to get inspiration from TV shows and a book he bought on international hot dog recipes to create weekly specials, such as a Japanese dog made with a beer brat, dried seaweed, Japanese slaw and wasabi and teriyaki sauces. One week he sold a Seattle dog topped with cream cheese, grilled onions and jalapeno peppers.
“People know I really care about what I’m serving,” he said.
Guzman sets up his hot dog stand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday under the awning of Fort Hood’s Military Clothing Sales.
For more information about Stevie’s Red Hot Wienies, go to www.steviesredhotwienies.com.