Thursday, July 22, 2010

Former Port Commissioner Offers Dogs Now, Not Logs

Above: Hyejin Nofzinger with her children, left to right, Jenna, 4, Hannah, 6, and Justin, 8, enjoy their dogs and drinks from Steve Pottle's and Cameron Jutte’s hot dog stand near the Olympia Farmer’s Market. Nofzinger and her children just arrived here last week from Korea. Her husband, who serves in the military, arrived here last April and told her about the rain, wondering if he had made a mistake in settling his family in the Northwest. “I can’t believe there’s a rainy season here - the weather is so beautiful!” said Nofzinger.

By Janine Gates

If a vendor down near the port property looks a little familiar, look again. He's former Port Commissioner Steve Pottle - but instead of serving up Weyerhaeuser logs, he's serving up wiener dogs.

Pottle says he's "just an investor" in his nephew’s new business, Man Bites Dog, but he's clearly helping out in many other ways, showing his nephew, Cameron Jutte, 21, the smoother side of what it takes to run any business: excellent customer service and the benefits of having an outgoing personality.

“Thank you for your business,” Pottle is heard to say, as every customer leaves.

The hot dog stand is located outside the Market Center Building across from the Olympia Farmer’s Market and operates Wednesdays through Sundays, from about 11:00 - 3:00 p.m.

The two attended the recent Winter Olympics and were inspired by the street vendors and thought, "we can do this." Both admit to being "foodies."

Asked how they came up with the name for the business, Pottle said it was originally the name started at the World’s Fair in Seattle in 1962 by the guy who later started Costco. After checking with their attorney, they found out they could use the name. “We originally wanted “Top Dog,” but that was taken,” says Jutte.

The pair say they go through about 45-50 hot dogs a day, although Pottle says how much product to buy is hard to tell. They sometimes run out before 3:00 p.m. To add to various dogs and a barbeque pork sandwich, they will be adding a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich to the menu soon.

A New York Polish Dog smothered with sweet grilled onions is five bucks. Chips and cold drinks are also available. One day last week, the special was a free drink with any dog. Folks familiar with Pottle, such as Mr. Panowicz of Panowicz Jewelers, stopped by to say hi.

Above: Steve Pottle, right, and nephew Cameron Jutte served up a lot of dogs during this interview.

Since their grand opening a couple weeks ago, ("Every day is a grand opening!" quipped Pottle) business has been brisk.

Turns out, it's not so much of a leap to go from port to pork. Running a hot dog stand sounds similar, if not just about as complicated, as running the Port of Olympia.

“The biggest challenge is going through the whole process of setting up the business and legal entities," says Pottle. "Getting the permits, sourcing the cart, securing a location, testing the product…you have to have a substantial amount of money to get it going,” he says.

Not only money, but obtaining the proper permits to get a business license, food handler’s licenses, a permit with the county for food handling, having a commissary with a three station sink, and a dishwasher, are all part of the challenges of owning your own food vending business. Pottle and Jutte lease the space for their cart in front of the Market Center Building from the Rants Group.

Pottle served nine years on the port commission, from 1997-2006, and was an original board member of Thurston First Bank, serving there for five years. He left Olympia four years ago, going to Everett to start the Snohomish County Office of Economic Development for County Government. He was there two years, and came back. Now, he’s consulting in business and sales.

Asked if he follows port business now, he said, “Nope! I don’t belong to nothing now - I don’t sit on any boards or commissions - zip - nothing. I did my time!” Pottle laughs, and is happy to report that he recently ran a half marathon in June, for the Seattle Rock and Roll event to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Jutte says this isn’t just a summer job for him - this is what he wants to do for the foreseeable future. “I want to cater events, if possible, small events,” he says.

Pottle adds, "That’s why we got a cart with wheels - so we can cater on a dime."

Editor's Note: According to NPR this morning, today is National Hot Dog Day! And by a strange coincidence, Janine was planning to post this story today!

Full Disclosure: The fact that Mr. Pottle gave me a fifty cent discount on a dog last week and loaded it with free onions had absolutely no influence on the outcome of this story. And the fact that Janine went back again another day and got another New York Polish Dog (just to make sure it was as great as the first one) still had no influence on the outcome of this story.

Above: Diane Harpel, an employee at the nearby Panowicz Jewelers, doesn't have far to go for lunch.

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