Even in cold, it's hot dogs with relish City vendors find warmth in loyal sidewalk customers

January 18, 1992|By James Bock

When Walter Ayers wants to know if it's cold, he looks for Jay Juez and his stainless steel hot dog cart with the yellow umbrella.

"When he's not out here, it's cold," said Mr. Ayers, a federal financial analyst.

By that standard, it wasn't cold in Baltimore yesterday.

Mr. Juez, in a green storm coat and black knit hat, served up hot dogs and Polish sausages with the works as he does weekdays outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse at Calvert and Lexington streets.

Even with temperatures in the 30s and a 12 mph southwest wind, Mr. Juez had ice in the bottom of his red soda cooler. People like their drinks cold, he said.

As if on cue, Michael Johnson, 23 and unemployed, strode up and demanded, "One of those cold Pepsi sodas and a hot dog with relish!"

"I'm thirsty as hell," he explained.

Working the other side of Calvert Street was vendor Harold White. He wore red ski pants, a heavy coat, earmuffs and a warm smile.

"I come every day. I don't get paid when I'm off," said Mr. White, who works on commission. "My secret of staying warm is meeting a different woman every day."

Both Calvert Street vendors work for Family Foods Inc., founded by Colombian immigrant Adel Jarava Sr. in 1973 after he saw how many hot dogs were sold on the streets of New York.

If it's under 25 degrees or the wind is blowing over 15 mph, "we don't go out because it can damage the umbrella or lose control of the cart," Mr. Jarava said.

So far this winter, Family Foods has kept its dozen carts off the streets only one day -- Thursday, when temperatures were in the 20s and winds gusted to 50 mph.

Yesterday was just a day at the beach as far as the vendors were concerned, and business was steady as pedestrians dined al fresco.

"It's never too cold," said Maurice Moore of Edmondson Village, ordering a hot dog from Jay Juez.

"Ain't no pork, is it?" Mr. Moore asked the vendor.

"Beef," Mr. Juez said.

"Lot of mustard," Mr. Moore said, proffering a $20 bill.

"Anything smaller?" Mr. Juez asked.

"That's it," Mr. Moore said. Sale completed.

Across the street, Harold White waited on a line of patrons.

"This is football weather," Mr. White said.

"This is nothing," agreed Roy Whitt, a South Baltimore man on jury duty who described himself as a stand-up comedian. "The funniest thing I can say about cold weather is lie down and avoid it."

Carlita Nelson, a secretary, made lunch of a soda and chips, as she often does.

"He's out here every day, it's real inexpensive to eat here, and he's a nice guy," she said.

"I'm very charismatic," Mr. White agreed. "Plus it's quick."

Outside the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland office on St. Paul Place, vendor Mark Jordan held forth in hooded coat,knit hat, scarf, long johns and boots.

"You don't work, you don't get paid," he said. "I could panhandle more than I make on some of the cold days. But today it's mild."

He served up quick lunches to C&P workers who --ed outside in only sweaters and shivered.

Mr. Jordan said he used to find winter jobs in the Florida Keys. But now he stays in Baltimore year-round and rarely takes vacations.

"I can think about springtime at least," he said. "It's not too far off."

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