THUNDER BAY -- If you go to Canadian Tire on Fort William Road, there is always the risk of consuming an addictively juicy hot dog just outside the store, even if you already ate. The Hot Dog Stand at Canadian Tire entices shoppers with mouth-watering smells of freshly grilled sausages, and at $5.50 for a jumbo sausage, it’s hard to resist.
Rebecca Gelevan became the owner of the business almost a year ago in May 2018, after the previous owner decided to move away and sell. The 23-year-old had been working at the stand for the previous three years, and when her former employer asked if she wanted to buy her out, she thought she might give it a try.
“I already knew pretty much everything around here; I’d been working six days a week so it was a good opportunity,” she explains. She had always been interested in business as well, although she admits that she never thought she would be a business owner so young, or that it would be a hot dog stand.
As far as Gelevan knows, the hot dog stand has been around for 13 or 14 years, and there have been others in the city, but now she is the only one left.
In recent years, the stand had been closed during the cold winter months, but she decided to keep it open this past winter, braving the cold. Some days the wind blows in, and the small portable propane heater she has is barely enough to keep her from shivering.
The past year has been a steep learning curve for Gelevan. “It’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs. I didn’t know that much about running a business of course. It was one of our busiest years last year so I took on a lot at once.”
“This was our first winter open in six years. December and January were really nice, but it’s been slow since. I’ve also had days when it was -25 and I couldn’t light the propane,” she says. One change she has made to the business since she bought it was to create a Facebook page, so that she can update customers about weather-related closures and so that they can get in touch with her.
The sausages (from Bogdala’s) and the buns (from Five Star Bakery) have not changed, however. She is considering widening her menu, “but this is kind of the way people like it,” she says. “So far it’s been going well with just what we have, but one day I do hope to either have another stand, or maybe a restaurant, but I don’t know yet. I’m still just making sure I have everything set for this place. It’s a lot of work.”
“She (the previous owner) had this for seven years. I think I can do longer than that, depending on how this goes,” she laughs.