With increasing numbers of hot dog vendors around Memorial Stadium on game days, profits for hot dog salesmen have plummeted. The competition has forced some to reconsider their business models. Many now offer additional toppings, such as bacon or grilled onions, but others have gone even further. One vendor has swapped hungry football fans for thirsty classical music fans.
Mike, formerly of Big Mike’s Hot Dogs, now operates a stand called Classy Mike’s Hot Teas. When he noticed hot dog vendors on every corner, Mike realized it was time to get out of the business.
“It got to the point where by the end of the game, I would have so many hot dogs left that I had to store them in my car, and now my car permanently smells like hot dogs,” explained Mike. “But I love vending things, so I had the idea to find another event around Berkeley and start selling stuff there instead.”
Success didn’t come immediately, as he experienced several failures before landing on tea. “I tried selling juice boxes at playgrounds, soap to EECS students, and french fries to seagulls,” disclosed Mike. “They don’t understand our economy,” he said of the last idea. “I finally landed on hot tea because I could repurpose the sign from my hot dog stand and save a few bucks, and I thought the best place to sell tea would be an orchestra or symphony or something along those lines.”
His intuition would prove to be correct, as he quickly sold out during his first test run in front of Zellerbach Hall. His next trials were equally successful, and now Mike serves hundreds of cups of tea at every concert.
“It’s exactly what you want in this setting,” explained an audience member sipping on his tea. “The fact that he serves it in fine china really pleases my sensibilities and enhances my orchestral experience.”
Other customers all seem to agree that hot tea is the perfect product to sell at the orchestra. Mike is also on the opposite side of camps from the stadium, meaning he has yet to face any competition form other hot dog vendors. His next plans involve acquiring a license to vend his tea in the aisles of the concert hall itself to provide seat-side service to all his customers.
To Berkeley classical music lovers, a cup of Classy Mike’s at the orchestra has quickly become as iconic as a hot dog at the football game.
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Contact Ryan Melvin at [email protected].