Reminiscing over hot dogs in West Virginia
RENICK, W.Va. (AP) — Dave Joyce puts his hands over his eyes, squinting to recognize the woman approaching from the nearby parking lot.
"Hello," she says, waving, as she walks down the sidewalk. "It's a right nice day for a hot dog."
It's Ann Musser's first time at Joyce's Renick hot dog stand. Joyce has many regulars, but quite a few first-time customers, like Musser, who drop in when they see him set up in front of the old Renick Junior High School on U.S. 219.
"I had to go to Marlinton to pick up a U-Haul and I didn't eat this morning," Musser says, explaining her move from Renick back to her native Pineville later that day. "I've been going since 5:30 this morning and I saw that sign and thought, 'It's early but I could eat a hot dog.' I'm hungry and the kids are, too, and I thought I was going to have to go home and cook and that's too much.
"This is good."
Joyce hands Musser her four hot dogs and a Coke and thanks her for "coming to Renick's largest restaurant."
It's also Renick's only "restaurant."
. . .
This is Joyce's 13th season selling hot dogs beneath the red and yellow umbrella attached to an authentic New York City Sabrett Hot Dog stand.
"I grew up on the Sabretts," Joyce, a native of eastern Long Island, says of the brand of hot dogs readily found on NYC streets. "I get a lot of people who recognize the umbrella (and ask), 'You got Sabretts?'"
And even though Joyce has to drive to Richmond to buy the all-beef hot dog on which he was raised, in addition to a cheaper $1 option, he most definitely offers authentic NYC hot dogs beneath his Sabretts umbrella.
"I get them for myself," he says with a laugh. "I'll just share them for $2 a piece. Unless you want the special. Then you can get two of them."
Joyce just lives a few miles down the road — out in the country, he says — on the border of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.
He's called the area home since 1978.
"I would go to Florida and I always wanted to go through the mountains, so one time, on my way back, I camped out here," he says. "I decided I liked this place so I saved my money and moved back."
Even after moving to Greenbrier County, Joyce continued to spend his winters in Florida then return to West Virginia where he has worked various odd jobs, including handyman work and running a pizza business.
But it was in 2004 that the idea to get an authentic NYC hot dog stand came about.
He says it was a simple idea.
"I just wanted to try it," he says.
He bought the stand — which runs on propane and keeps condiments both hot and cold and boils hot dogs to the required temperature — new in 2005, but didn't get the permit to open until 2006.
He started beside the now closed feed store on the other side of Renick before moving to the lawn/sidewalk area in front of the school.
And aside from a nearby garage, he says he's the only business in town.
"It was a bustling town years ago before they closed the school," he says of the Renick he remembers. "It had a couple of beer joints, a couple of stores, a feed store. Oh, all kinds of things. But it's dead.
"Consolidation killed this 'burg."
That was back in 1992.
"I remember going to the last football game," he says. "I told everybody they just killed the town with that vote. That consolidation vote. They didn't believe me. It took 20 years, but it killed it."
Joyce hasn't always been alone at his post at the old school.
"I used to have a partner over there," he says, pointing to the parking lot, where a flea market was set up well before Joyce started his hot dog business. "But he died last December. It was always good to have 'Dollar Don.'
"He was 84 so he had a pretty good run."
. . .
Joyce's day is a steady stream of honking cars and continued conversations.
"He is an iconic figure in the community, Dave the Hot Dog Man," says Tim Hofmann, who lives across the street and comes over for a weekly hot dog, and near daily chat.
"I'm trying to cut back," he says, patting his stomach.
Nate Williamson, who owns a garage a few minutes away but just outside of town limits, stops in with his wife, Leona.
"It's great food and affordable," he says. "It's close to home and that's very important because where are you going to go (to eat) unless you bring it? There isn't anywhere else.
"And Dave's a really good guy."
The stand is only open April through September, Thursday through Saturday — weather and traffic plus Joyce's own desire to continue trips to Florida determine that schedule.
He's set up by 10 a.m. on those mornings, ready for any early customers who stop by, hoping to make $30 or $40 before his lunchtime "rush."
"Right around lunchtime I'll get the millworkers," he says referring to the nearby Mountain Lumber Company. "They'll make me sweat for about an hour, and it's back to reading my book. So after they leave if I can get close to $100 and then if I make $30 or $40 that's pretty much an average day.
"If I can get up to $150, I can say I made $90 and that's profit."
And right at lunch hour, things pick up.
"I come every Thursday and Friday," millworker William Goins says. "It's a hot meal. I get tired of sandwiches."
Co-worker William Moore says he was told about the hot dog stand during his interview. The mill is just "2 minutes away," he says, and as there are no other options, it's a summertime selling point for dayshift employees.
"I referee football and I even stop by on my way to Marlinton every Saturday to get a hot dog," he says. "They're good."
. . .
Joyce says he knows he would make more money if he set up somewhere else, but he's happy where he is.
He likes the thought of water, though.
"I'd like to go down by the river," he says, smiling. "Put a little fishing pole down there. Fish and sell hot dogs. That would be a good spot."
He and his wife Janet have set up by invitation at the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, though.
But aside from events like that, he says the sidewalk in front of the old junior high, a spot for which he pays $50 a month and mows the grass, is good enough for him.
"It's my occupation," he says. "My wife thinks I have a job. That's all that matters."
And Joyce, who will be 65 his next birthday, but has no plans of filing for Social Security anytime soon, says in a few years he might turn the business over to his grandniece.
"I'm planning on doing it until I'm 70," he says. "I'm not rich but I don't need the money. It's almost like a community service. At a dollar a hot dog, it takes a long time to get up to $100, as you can see by my line here. But right now I've had my wife fooled for 13 seasons."
Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com