COLUMBIA — With a following as devoted as that of the football team, the hot dog stand outside Quinton's and Field House won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The scene is classic: a black and yellow striped umbrella covers the shiny silver cart, decked out with various condiments including ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, the works. A bold-faced “Mizzou” sign on both sides of the cart shows their loyalty to the university.
Tim Mallory, 46, and wife Beth, 45, have run the hot dog stand every weekend for the past year. The couple started off outside the Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival last year and because of its popularity, a local favorite was born.
The couple moved here from Palm Beach, Fla., where Tim Mallory ran a Jeep dealership for 14 years. He retired about two years ago when the auto industry began to struggle and moved to Columbia to be near family.
Prior to running the cart, Tim Mallory bought and sold items online, including the $4,000 hot dog cart, through online retail sites such as eBay and Craigslist. They bought the cart and, at a niece’s suggestion, set up in downtown with the hot dogs.
As an after-bar stop, the hot dog stand holds its own against popular late-night eateries such as The Broadway Diner and El Rancho by bringing originality to the table.
Although newer to the scene, the hot dog stand rings of classic hot dog vendors so much one can almost smell the roasted peanuts of the ballpark mingling with the smoky scent of charcoal.
First-time buyers Brent Ebl, 24, and girlfriend Maria Figueroa, 26, found the hot dog idea original and a benefit to Columbia.
“It’s very classic in a lot of upscale, bigger cities,” Ebl said. “They always have these on pretty much every other corner and Columbia has finally got their first so it’s really different.”
They were on their way to Quinton’s before making the stop. Ebl introduced himself to Tim Mallory while buying a hot dog and thought the vendor’s friendliness added to the experience.
“He just has that vibe where you click right away,” Ebl said. “It’s not so much a polarized you hate him or you love him. He’s just got that really good vibe where he comes off as a really nice guy to everybody.”
Along with good customer service, Tim Mallory devotes a lot of time to the stand and its success.
The couple has been married for 25 years and has two daughters, which are 15 and 19 years-old.
Tim Mallory sets up outside Field House on Wednesday and stays outside Quinton’s Thursday through Saturday every week. He gets to the corner about 9 p.m. and is set up and ready to serve by 9:30 p.m.
Business stays steady until midnight, but it is “controlled chaos” between 12:30 and 2 a.m., he said. Beth Mallory usually comes to help run the stand on Friday night and works in the lunchroom at Rock Bridge High School during the day.
“About one o’clock in the morning, there’s people jumping up and down, can’t wait,” Tim Mallory said.
Customers can buy a regular hot dog with everything on it for $3, and $4 buys a quarter-pound Nathan’s hot dog, a well-known New York brand. There is no additional charge for chili or cheese sauce, and customers can help themselves to condiments.
But students and bar-goers are not the only fans of the juicy franks. They have people coming out in their pajamas or making the drive specifically for the hot dogs.
“The people downtown love us, we have quite a following,” Tim Mallory said. “We have a lot of older couples who come out … just to get our food. We’ve been accepted pretty well.”
A Quinton's bouncer told the couple about how on Labor Day, one of the few holidays the couple takes off, a girl came out of the bar and, upon not seeing the hot dog stand, dropped to her knees and started bawling because she’d been waiting all night for a hot dog.
The couple have also seen fights break out on the sidewalk outside the bar, gotten requests to throw the hot dogs up to the Sky Bar atop Quinton’s and witnessed a customer devouring seven hot dogs on the spot.
Since the football season began, they have seen a boom in business on home game days.
“Game days are great,” Tim Mallory said. “We do a lot more business earlier in the evening on game days because they’ve all been partying all day. We don’t get quite as much of a rush at 1 o’clock as we do at 8, 9 and 10 p.m.”
An avid sports fan himself, Tim enjoys football and golf. His step-father is a professional golfer and passed down his love for the game. During the day he does stock market trading from home and prepares for the night ahead.
“I think the fun thing is that it’s keeping Tim and I younger,” Beth Mallory said. “We never did the bar scenes to begin with, but we like being around the young people.”
The couple is always friendly toward their customers and try to give back where they can. At the end of the night, they give the leftovers to the workers of both Quinton’s and Field House, along with many homeless people in the downtown area.
Although they repeatedly donate leftovers, people have stolen quite a few items from the stand over the past year, including the expensive sign the couple bought, an endless number of condiments and the two business permits needed to run the stand.
Despite these setbacks, the couple remains committed to serving their late-night customers. Beth Mallory said this commitment makes them stand out from the other street vendors in town. Committed customers and the positive response from the community makes it all worth it, she said.
“They love us and we love them,” Beth Mallory said.