Who owns Lucky Dogs and where are they located? Are vendors employees of the company or are they independent vendors who pay a fee much like a franchise? Please explain how the operation works. I've seen them my entire life in New Orleans, but nobody seems to know how they conduct business.
The company is called Lucky Dogs Inc. and it is located at 517 Gravier St. The idea for the rolling hot-dog cart began in 1948. The vendors are employees of the company, and they get to keep a percentage of what they make. On a good night during Carnival and with a good location, a vendor can sell $2,000 worth of Lucky Dogs.
The brothers who created the unique vending carts at first thought they would go into leasing or franchising. Their advertisement went this way: "Cruise the midway. Get around town. You and Lucky Dog follow the crowd. A red hot steam job that will roll up profits everywhere you go. Steam cooks 100 dogs, buns, and chili. Stores everything for 300 more." They gave up on the franchising idea in 1952, and after 23 years, sold the business.
After some difficulties, owner Doug Talbot's company eventually became a New Orleans tradition and went on to achieve international fame. Like many of the things we know and love, Lucky Dogs were missing for a good while after Katrina. But the vendors pushed their carts back into the French Quarter in January 2006, just in time for Mardi Gras. One vendor who was displaced to Pensacola, Fla., after Katrina returned to the city on his bicycle; he missed his job selling Lucky Dogs on the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon streets.
If you want to find out about the inner workings of the company and read some really funny anecdotes, pick up a copy of Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter, in which New Orleanian Jerry Strahan tells of his years as a Lucky Dog vendor and manager.
Can you tell me in what year William Waller Young was Rex?
Attorney William Waller Young reigned as Rex in 1952, and his queen was Eugenie Penick Jones. The theme of the parade that year was "Panorama of the Magic Sugar Egg." The previous year Rex did not parade because of the Korean War, so folks were ready when Mardi Gras came on Feb. 26, 1952.
At that time, the parade started at St. Charles Avenue and Felicity Street and proceeded up St. Charles to Louisiana Avenue, where it made a U-turn and rolled back down St. Charles to Canal Street. After moving up and down Canal, the parade turned down University Place and onto Tulane Avenue, passing in front of Charity Hospital for the first time in history. From there, the parade continued to Claiborne Avenue where it turned to go home to the den for another year.
The weather was in the 40s that day and cloudy and windy. When Rex stopped at City Hall to toast Mayor deLesseps Morrison and other dignitaries, he gave his speech, drank his champagne and quipped, "That helped me warm up a little."
Thanks for the spotlight about Elmer's Chee Wees in your column. Just to clarify, our new toll free telephone number since the storm is (888) 570-0764, and we recently added a Web site, www.elmerscheewees.com so those who are displaced or out of the local area can shop online with us. We've had a long, hard road to recovery since Katrina. It took more than 14 months to totally rebuild my facility, but we are very happy to be back in production right here in New Orleans on Port Street.
Old Blake is very happy to let folks -- displaced or not -- know about products made in New Orleans. We've lost so much in our great city, so every company, restaurant or shop that comes back, makes us feel as if everything is going to be okay.