ST. PETERSBURG — The tantalizing aroma of grilled hot dogs, steaming sauerkraut and a spicy onion sauce greets you as you approach Chipper’s Munchies, LLC’s hot dog cart, located in front of the Sebring Building at 525 Mirror Lake Drive.
The cart serves Nathan hot dogs, but is also becoming a lunchtime crowd favorite for their Louisiana Andouille sausages, turkey hot dogs, chicken habanero/cheese sausages and beef hot links.
Owned by St. Pete natives Breht Dennard and his wife Dyan since 2015, Dennard has been an entrepreneur in the food service industry for several years. He and his mom moved temporarily to Lakewood, Calif., in the early 80s where he obtained an A.A degree from Metropolitan Technical Institute in paralegal studies.
He started his culinary career at ShowBiz Pizza Time Theater in the early 80s after attending their college training program where he learned to prep and prepare various foods. Dennard returned to St. Petersburg, went into partnership with Sam Snead and opened Ribs & Wings Sports Bar on 34th South from 1998 -2001.
Dennard, who is chairman of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church’s Deacon Board, was encouraged and motivated by fellow church members Rev. Allen Miller, who is a caterer, Deacon Leon Highsmith and Deacon Danny McBride, who also has his own food cart.
“It was something quick, simple and the overhead was minimal,” Dennard explained.
He said that food carts are priced starting at $1,200 and can range in price up to $6,000 for custom design models. The carts must then be fitted with condiment traps, stainless steel utensils, hot dog trays, a fire extinguisher and thermometers to maintain heat requirements and a battery.
His cart and many that the other vendors use was purchased from Dream Maker, a local builder and supplier of food carts.
To start the process, there are several steps to be taken, he explained. You must first pass an on-line test that the state issues for receiving certification in food management, issued through Serv Safe Certification. There are two classes that certification can be obtained in: handling food or the managerial course which Dennard took that encompassed more aspects of the food industry. The course is $185.00.
Once obtained, vendors need to process a city application, which is $75 and are charged an additional $100 per year for the use of their corner. Then there is the high cost of insurance that all carts and food trucks must have.
Fitted out with propane gas, hot and cold running water and a soap dispenser, Dennard said there is only one other cart in St. Pete that is equipped with a flat grill. The other vendors boiled their hot dogs, but his dogs and sausages are grilled to perfection with a hint of onions and peppers.
Dennard did voice concerns that the food carts are charged additional fees for special events that are held throughout the city such as the Pride Parade, Circus McGurkis and MLK Drum Major for Justice Parade. He has attended most of these events and feels these fees, which are hundreds of dollar per event, are exorbitant.
Dennard also feels that as a black man he has been subjected to more food and safety inspections than some of the other food carts. He asserts that some carts are inspected sporadically or others not at all, while his cart has been inspected five to six times.
He said he has also faced racism from the public, stating that when some see that a black man is running the cart they walk away. But that doesn’t stop him from feeding the masses.
“This corner has been really good to me,” he said.
Being an advocate of the homeless, he also witnesses the mistreatment of people who are deemed hopeless by society.
“Police always seem to be watching them,” Dennard stated. “Some of them are intelligent and just fell on bad times. I’m a people person. I see all walks of life, homeless vets, city hall workers, attorneys, kids and young people. I don’t judge people.”
Through it all, Dennard keeps a smile on his face while peddling his culinary wares. He wants to buy more hot dog carts, but his wife has her eye on a food truck. It remains to be seen who will win that battle, but either way he plans to continue doing what he loves.
“I just believe if you have a vision nothing beats a try and don’t let failure dictate where and how you’re going to be in life. Stay positive. All things are possible through Jesus Christ. God has truly blessed me in this business.”
View his menu and check out his photo gallery at chippersmunchies.com. You might already be on his website scarfing down a hot dog.