by Lisa Tome
Most days, Lori Finney mans the hot dog cart outside Elkton's Union Hospital.
One Wednesday, her husband, Elias, was filling in. Elias discussed the business while serving up dogs and sausages. There are signs advertising the hot dogs for $2.25, hot or mild sausages for $3. There's also drinks for $1 and assorted combo meals including bags of chips.
"We got an early start this year. We started in March because the weather got nice," said Elias Finney.
The couple started running the hot dog cart about five years ago. Elias is a boat broker and Lori was in real estate. Her business took a downturn and Finney's Dog House was born. "Finney's Dog House. That's the name. We came up with that because I said I'm in the dog house," he said.
They've tried weekends, but business didn't warrant cart sales. They sell hot dogs from about 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. weekdays only.
"We liked being our own boss. My wife was in real estate and then the market went south," he said.
The couple, who lives in Havre de Grace, have found that people want simple.
"The menu is pretty simple. The hot dogs are Nathan's. The kielbasa is Dietz and Watson," he said.
They also offer a few condiments - onions, relish, dijon and regular mustard, ketchup, and a special bell pepper relish.
"It's all pre-cooked. That's all we're allowed to sell," he said. They also offer sauerkraut, chili, and cheese toppings. "We get people who want the kitchen sink, chili, cheese, and kraut. Or the kids want nothing - just the dog without a bun. Or the kids want ketchup," he said.
He said they pride themselves on fast, quality service. "It's a lot of hard work, more than you realize. There's two or three hours of work that you don't see," he said.
A woman stopped to buy some dogs with kraut. She said she's been wanting to eat from the cart but gets to the hospital after closing.
"We have tried dinner, but there's not much going on," he said. "If we're not here, people ask where we've been. We're here weather permitting, not when it snows. And we have regular customers."
Running a hot dog cart offers plenty of opportunities for temptation. Elias admits that he eats his share. "I don't eat them everyday. Today, I went to the gym and I brought a turkey sandwich," he said.
He said the dog business is good. He and Lori did some research and they found that in the 1930s, while businesses failed, food carts flourished.
"It's been good. We're not getting rich. We may add debit cards because a lot of people ask for that," he added.