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Hot Dog! 13-Year-Old Keeps His Stand Open With Help Of Minneapolis Health Department

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A lot of teenagers spend the summer trying to earn a few extra dollars. In Minneapolis, 13-year-old Jaequan Faulkner runs a hot dog stand that has gotten a lot of attention. We learned about him from a story in The Star Tribune. And when I gave him a call, Faulkner was at his stand just setting up for business. I asked him to describe what I would see if I visited.

JAEQUAN FAULKNER: Well, you would see a green tent with chips, hot dogs, a cash register and a crock pot on it with some buns, napkins. And you would just see me with a smile on my face ready to serve you.

SHAPIRO: Faulkner has been selling hot dogs at his stand for a couple of summers now, and this year, someone called the city health department to complain. Faulkner didn't have a permit. The health department didn't make him shut the stand down. Instead, they linked Faulkner with a local business development group, and they said they wanted to help him succeed.

JAEQUAN: They had said, you don't even got to worry about it. We're going to help you get your license. And we're just going to help you actually grow.

SHAPIRO: The health inspectors helped Faulkner get certified to operate the hot dog stand. They even paid the $87 for a permit. I asked Faulkner to explain how that happened.

JAEQUAN: Well, actually Ryan and Huff...

SHAPIRO: Huff - that's Minneapolis environmental health director Dan Huff.

JAEQUAN: But they work with the health department, and they - when we had - when we went to go meet Ryan, he was a nice guy. He showed us around the place and took me to get my license. But then what I didn't know was to get - when I go there, I didn't - I didn't have to, you know, pay no money. When I was there, Huff already paid it. He just said, when you get here, don't worry about it. It's already paid for him. He just get his permit.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

JAEQUAN: And I had figured out when it was on the news that he had said he paid it.

SHAPIRO: Oh, it was only when you were on the news that you found out that somebody else had paid the fee for you.

JAEQUAN: Yes.

SHAPIRO: How'd that make you feel?

JAEQUAN: It had made me feel kind of excited and, like, I was just like, wow. I had people on my side that I didn't even know.

SHAPIRO: What kind of changes did you have to make to be an official business? Were there things that they made you add to the hot dog stand?

JAEQUAN: They made me add a washing station where I can wash my hands. It's where, if I drop my tongs, I can wash those off.

SHAPIRO: What else?

JAEQUAN: They made me take away tomatoes. They made me take away cheese because it was a violation.

SHAPIRO: Are you going to have to give this up when you go back to school in the fall?

JAEQUAN: Actually, I'm hoping not. What I'm going to do is the first two weeks of school, I'm going to see how - like, what time I get off, and I'm going to have my uncle set up around that time. And when he set up, I'll be off school by now, and I'm ready to - we're ready to open.

SHAPIRO: So you're going to try to keep doing this during the school year.

JAEQUAN: Yes.

SHAPIRO: What grade are you going to be?

JAEQUAN: I'm going into eighth grade.

SHAPIRO: Do you know anybody else in your eighth grade class who has a business like this?

JAEQUAN: Actually, no.

SHAPIRO: What do you love about doing this?

JAEQUAN: Me - the reason why I started it is because I love building. Like, building's just my favorite. So I love building, and I like having my own things. So this goes together perfect. So when I get older, I was hoping I can be an architect and design my own buildings and, like, design my own hot dog buildings and be having people - some people managing those.

SHAPIRO: Last question - what do you put on your hot dogs when you're going to eat one yourself?

JAEQUAN: I actually make a Chicago-style hot dog.

SHAPIRO: Describe what goes on a Chicago-style hot dog. It's what I ate growing up. My mom is from Chicago. But what do you put on a Chicago-style hot dog?

JAEQUAN: What I put on it is I put some onions, I put a little relish - it depends - I put a little jalapenos, I put some mustard on it. I don't really like ketchup, so I can't put that on it.

SHAPIRO: Never, ever ketchup. No ketchup on the hot dog.

JAEQUAN: Yeah, no ketchup.

SHAPIRO: Jaequan, thank you so much for talking with us.

JAEQUAN: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Jaequan Faulkner is the 13-year-old owner and operator of Mr. Faulkner's Old-Fashioned Hot Dogs in Minneapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARK MOTHERSBAUGH'S "LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY BOAT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.