Sonny’s Hot Dogs started on a bet four years ago in Alexander City and some would say that’s also when the idea of food trucks began in Tallapoosa County.
“Our family went to New York,” Sonny’s owner Andrew Salinas said. “We noticed the food carts around the city. When we got back I bet my children I would do it. My goal was four hours for one day.”
Salinas decided not to spend a lot of money to get it going for one day.
“I built the cart myself,” Salinas said. “We went to Goodwater and did well. So we did Alexander City the next day.”
Salinas said those first two days were successful.
“I did well enough pay all the expenses in eight hours and to pay for the cart,” he said.
That was four years ago. In the first year Salinas said he sold 41,600 hot dogs. So far his busiest day has been at Octoberfest where he served 1,150 hot dogs. He said he averages about 110 hot dogs an hour and his best two-hour serving was at a Russell Medical event serving 600 hot dogs.
Ernie Luster and his fiancee Miranda Gill wanted to do something to call their own, so they jumped on the food truck train.
“We decided to be different,” Luster said. “Everyone enjoys food, so we came up with Ernie’s Hot Dogs.”
Luster said the idea grew fast going from a concept to reality in two weeks. The couple decided it would gut an old pop-up camper for its operation.
“(Gill) is the brains behind the operation,” Luster said. “She did Youtube and figured out how to do it. It was a lot of work.”
Mike Lucas owns Dairy Creem on Dadeville Road. He said he was getting into competition barbeque, so he opened Big Mike’s. People started coming up to his trailer a little over a year ago.
“I do a lot of BBQ competitions,” Lucas said. “People started to come up to my trailer while I was practicing. So I just set up and it has become popular. It is now a full time job.”
All three have routes that them from Dadeville to Goodwater to the Ridge and back to Alexander City.
Sonny’s, Ernie’s and Big Mike’s are experienced in mobile food service in Tallapoosa County, but that is not stopping Tony Blanco. Blanco was previously with Coffee Corner on Main making tacos and is now stepping into a food truck with business partner Mark Gilland of Ocie & Belle’s. Blanco said he stepped away from Coffee Corner and Gilland approached him.
“(Gilland) knew I wouldn’t stay away from the food industry,” Blanco said. “We like the idea of not being stationary.”
Blanco said he wants to serve than the tacos he was popular for at Blanco’s Food Truck.
“People know we serve good food,” Blanco said. “We will serve that plus some specials.”
Blanco said he is still working on locations for the food truck but one location is already set.
“We are trying to establish a route,” Blanco said. “We are looking at (Highway) 280 and we know we will be at Ocie & Belle’s. We want to give a presence in downtown.”
Blanco and Luster both said the beauty of mobile food service is if a location is not working out, they can move on.
“We are not tied to a building,” Luster said. “We are not stuck there all day.”
Blanco said, “It is the beauty of the food truck. You can move on when things are not right.”
Blanco said he hopes to have his truck up and running soon.
“Things got slowed down some,” Blanco said. “There are a lot of regulations. We hope to be up and running by mid-July. We hope to take advantage of the summer season.”
Salinas and Luster love the mobile food service for the people.
“I’m a people person,” Salinas said. “I like people and their crazy stories. It is so much fun. I have the guy that likes ketchup on the same side every time and mustard on the other and not touching. There is also the three-onion lady. She only wants three pieces, no more, no less.”
Luster said working for the public is fun too – even the orders.
“I have a guy that orders, “I want everything but the dish rag,’” Luster said. “I put everything I have on his. I enjoy meeting everyone from the average Joe to the lawyers and judges. You get to meet a lot of characters. They have personality. It’s not quite the barbershop but it’s close.”