The Bartholomewtown Podcast

Weenie Wizard (Providence, RI Food Innovators)

May 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 97
The Bartholomewtown Podcast
Weenie Wizard (Providence, RI Food Innovators)
Chapters
The Bartholomewtown Podcast
Weenie Wizard (Providence, RI Food Innovators)
May 07, 2019 Season 1 Episode 97
Bill Bartholomew / Michele Freyer / Luke Tabor
Weenie Wizard is a Providence, RI-based artisanal hot dog stand, that offers a constantly shifting array of meat, veggie and carrot dogs with highly original and creative toppings. Created by Michele Fryer and Luke Tabor, aka the Fantastical Food Group, ‘The Meat MAGICIANS”, as they are known, have expanded from speakeasy-esq DIY origins in 2014 to a fully licensed food provider today, providing their signature dogs at a variety of pop-up spaces and events. Not a food truck, not a brick and mortar restaurant, Weenie Wizard’s innovative approach to food production borrows from guerilla-mainstream conversion tactics followed by many other forms of art. Further, in transacting hot dogs, the wizard’s have a unique vantage point from which to observe and understand the wide array of patrons that frequent their stand.
Show Notes Transcript

Weenie Wizard is a Providence, RI-based artisanal hot dog stand, that offers a constantly shifting array of meat, veggie and carrot dogs with highly original and creative toppings.  Created by Michele Fryer and Luke Tabor, aka the Fantastical Food Group, ‘The Meat MAGICIANS”, as they are known, have expanded from speakeasy-esq DIY origins in 2014 to a fully licensed food provider today, providing their signature dogs at a variety of pop-up spaces and events.  Not a food truck, not a brick and mortar restaurant, Weenie Wizard’s innovative approach to food production borrows from guerilla-mainstream conversion tactics followed by many other forms of art.  Further, in transacting hot dogs, the wizard’s have a unique vantage point from which to observe and understand the wide array of patrons that frequent their stand.



Speaker 1:
0:00
Support the Bartholomew town podcast by subscribing, rating and reviewing on apple podcasts.:
Speaker 2:
0:10
The box telling you town.:
Speaker 1:
0:13
Welcome in to another edition of the Bartholomew town podcast. I'm your host, Bill Bartholomew. On today's episode I sit down with the proprietors of providence is we need wizard. You each have such an interesting lens into Providence, the different types of people that must come up to your stand on an on an you know, an event by event basis. Do you experience that? Do you feel like there's my crazy and thinking? I think you've actually hit it on the cat. Definitely talking about this the other day where hot dog, someone's give us a leg up because everyone can come to it and enjoy it and you know it has this familiarity but that familiarity we can also use as a vehicle to play with a lot of different flavors. We need. Wizard is a providence based artismal hot dog stand that offers a constantly shifting array of meat, Veggie and carrot dogs with highly original and creative toppings formed by Michelle Fryer and Luke Tabor, Aka the fantastical food group.:
Speaker 1:
1:11
The meat magicians, as they are known, have expanded from speak easy s DIY origins in 2014 to a fully licensed food provider today serving their signature dogs and even partnering on a new Bar Far West, not a food truck, nor a brick and mortar restaurant. We need wizards, innovative approach to food production borrows from gorilla to mainstream conversion tactics followed by many other forms of art and politicians in transacting hot dogs. The wizards have a unique vantage point from which to observe and understand the wide array of patrons that frequent their operation. By the way, head over to Instagram at Bartholomew Tom podcast or search Bartholomew town on youtube for a thrilling video of me trying out four different veggie dogs from the weenie wizard. You don't want to miss this Bartholomew Tom podcast on the gram or search youtube Bartholomew town support for the Bartholomew town podcast comes from m Duran Studio.:
Speaker 1:
2:11
Providence is fine choice for commercial photography from headshots and portraits to high quality candidates. Check out their extensive portfolio at [inaudible] studio.com do you have them a call today@fourohonefourzerozerotwothreetwoeightormessagebookatmduranstudio.com and coming up on Saturday, June 8th it's Bartholomew town, live at PVD fest, a live variety show and podcast featuring some of your favorite Rhode Island influencers and performing artists. Full details@pvdfest.com and stay with me on Twitter at Bill Bartholomew for all of the latest and greatest details. All right. Without further ado, let's take you to my conversation with the weenie wizard. All right. So we are here with a meat magicians and I must say a committed multi decade vegetarian, the nonmeat magicians as well, because I literally walk away from, or have walked away from the weaning wizard kiosk and turn around and come right on back for more. So let's talk about weenie wizard. I'm fascinated by it because number one, it's, it's great. It's delicious. It's so, yeah, it's an artists and food out. If something basic, which is, uh, you know, I know that's a strategy in even Michelin striving restaurants now is to really like go back to basics and aggregate and then make that damn good and special. But it's also an interesting thing in providence because when you began, you weren't certainly not a brick and mortar restaurant nor food truck, right? Bells, lemonade stand. No, fuck that.:
Speaker 3:
3:52
Yeah, you can't really put I guess, pinpoint what we were in. I guess what we still are. Um, we were kind of a secret popup. We started actually as a yard sale posing as a yard sale. Um, so we lived on the west side near north and we, um, I just had tons of stuff to get rid of. I bought Luke this hotdog cart as a surprise for his birthday. And we were like, let's have a yard sale and sell dollar hot dogs. So he posted the whole west side with the yard sale signs and they were really artsy and cool and we were like, surprise, there's hot dogs for sale. When people got, a lot of people are probably like, what is this? Like, what did I, oh, there was weird stuff to people handed us like yard sale stuff like beanie babies. Like we, we're selling weird stuff.:
Speaker 3:
4:42
Some sweet black velvet painting. Sorry. There's some good stuff too. But anyway, so the hot dog, so we started so cheap, you know, just try it out. So then we further progress every other Sunday, like to keep doing this yard sale until the junk like ran out. Um, we up the price by a dollar as we got more legit and um, we started putting out blasts on Instagram. Um, I, I think every other Sunday we just grew a little bit more, we started to having fresh linens, we bought more tables. Um, and before we knew it, our backend was like a full blown restaurant. Yeah. I remember when you started putting out flowers and it was really activated the space really well and people would, I always loved when people would walk back. I'm back a con to cut it down, the shady, you know, driveway, not knowing what to expect.:
Speaker 3:
5:31
And they'd walk in and there'd be all these like tables with flowers on it and music pumping and people bring in their own like beers and you know, having some hot dogs and it was just a really, really, yeah, good vibe. Yeah. So, um, so yeah, it kept progressing and then we got this blow up alien that we'd hang up on the tree outside of her house so that people in the note would be like, where's the alien? Like, let's go down that weird driveway. And let me just say it was a typical providence triple decker vinyl siding, like falling up apart. Really it with like you have to walk by at trash cans and you couldn't see what actually was in the yard when you walked down. Um, anyway, so that's how we started and people just started loving it. By the end we just started having lines down our driveway.:
Speaker 3:
6:18
So we're like, okay, what do we do? Like we have to turn this legit if we're going to keep doing it. Cause it's, yeah, getting scary, how popular it was. Um, it was cool. I'm still to this day, we have a lot of loyal customers. I'd say Luke, like a lot of our customers are from that time and everyone reminisces like we miss your backyard. Um, so yeah, we try to bring that spirit in any little way we can with like DIY marketing stuff for bright colors or I don't know, like even bird makes all of our cool hats, which was really fun. Um, so you tried to have this like down to earth, like punky artistic DIY flared no matter how, like legit we are. Like, yeah, no, I totally admire that pathway. That's very similar to kind of the approach I'm taking right here with this podcast. And be honest with you, it's just like, boom, let's do it. Yeah. You have to start somewhere. Eat those as well. Like totally music is an art that we learn history and then all those areas. All right, so now we're, you know, it's a bit more legit these days. I talk about that process I guess Luke.:
Speaker 4:
7:36
Yeah. So, um, it turned out that, you know, in order to sell food to the public, you need a lot of licenses and you need to, you know, find a kitchen that you can, uh, Cook legally out of which we were prepared to do. Um, we had to get our food safety manager, find a kitchen where we could work out of. Um, yeah, so it was, it took us probably about six months to, once we decided that that's really, that we were going to, we want it to be a legit business and we want it to be out there and get some of the bigger events, you know, like PVD fest or, um, we did like Fu fast. All these events where you know, you can really, you know, make some money and really represent yourself and be part of the street event in a way that feels like a lot of fun.:
Speaker 4:
8:21
Yeah. Um, yeah, so it was just a lot of licenses, you know, and it took us a while because every time I feel like you thought you were all set, somebody would come up with something else that you were missing or they didn't fill out quite accurately. And so it was Kinda, it was frustrating for a while. Um, cause there's nobody that you can just sit down with. Unfortunately. It'd be like, just give me a list of everything I need and check it off. Instead, you're kind of chasing your own tail for awhile, trying to figure out, you know, how this leads to that. And so basically we're operating as a caterer then. Is that, I'm guessing, is that a mobile food is the classification and um, there's a few different ones within there. Um, like as far as food truck to like a hot dog cart. Um, we were kind of in the middle because some of our cooking's a little bit more advanced in your typical hot dog cart, so that made things slightly more complicated. Um, but it's basically to make sure that you have the ability to serve safe food temperature wise and sanitary wise. And you know, when we were doing the same thing in our backyard, but you just have to make sure that you demonstrate it on paper.:
Speaker 1:
9:28
And that goes through the DVR. Liz Tanner and department of business regulation.:
Speaker 4:
9:33
No, it's like food safety. Um, it's a whole nother department or Department of Health. The Department of Health. Yeah, of course. Yeah. And then like, uh, the license department, I don't know, I forget what their name is, but there's the city, city, city hall, so lots, lots of time in city hall trying to figure out, you know, uh, you know, make sure that you're all straight with the man.:
Speaker 1:
9:53
Yeah. But once you've got that in order, it's freeing, right. In a certain way, you know, and now you can operate, of course you have to maintain, but at the same time:
Speaker 3:
10:02
easier to renew licenses than it is to like find out how to do it from scratch for sure. Um, and it's cool we actually have a lot of people locally, a friends in the industry that are interested in starting their own food businesses. So now we can kind of help perpetuate, you know, people doing that by giving them our advice of what we went through. So it's kind of a, it's kind of cool.:
Speaker 1:
10:26
Yeah. Yeah. It's like the way that, you know, they, some of them, someone I was talking with yesterday talking about the self driving cars and how they see in real time educate each other about, oh, this intersection is dangerous. If you, you know, you might go over the curb if you get too close to it or there's a traffic jam here, whatever the situation is, you know, food, whatever, music, technology, whatever it is, you know, the, if we can operate in that same format and just get better and better and better and tighter and tighter as a unit, but someone's got to, as they seen comedy take bullet and get out for Christmas. That's reading wizard innovators soon.:
Speaker 4:
11:02
And especially with vending where I feel like it's a chain unique thing of you show up at this event, you don't know quite how many people are going to be. You don't know what kind of guests you're going to get. You don't know. You have to set all the prices, you have to make the whole menu. And so you face a lot of unique circumstances cause every time you pop up it could be totally different, you know, whether, um, crowds and so like just keeping an even keel has been one of the tougher things of like trying to figure out how to, you know, keep us straight and Arrow. And you know, there's some highs and there:
Speaker 1:
11:37
it's all worth it in the end though. Definitely. Let's talk about providence right now. Just in general. You know, it's, someone asked me this morning, you know, oh, would you, do you see yourself being here? What do you see as the future of Providence? And, and I've been thinking the last few weeks, um, kind of putting a lot of the conversations of how with different people and using, you know, just our own friends or whatever. Um, it's got to be like a 25 year plan for this to really work and really get going the way we want. Although there are things today that are basically the same as what we would want the future to kind of make those corrections DF. Is that too long, too, too dark a view or is that, or is that, um, you know, not long enough. What do you, what do you think:
Speaker 4:
12:21
you're on the grounds? Yeah, I mean, it's definitely something we think a little about, a lot about, you know, wanting to invest in this community and create a small business and really make sure that it's a place that we can be successful and receptive to our ideas. And it's amazing seeing so many creative people out on the streets that are responding to us doing their own thing really, you know, coming up with all these unique things. Um, but it is, it does seem like it's still gonna take a while, you know, and it's, um, I think probably on a larger level of a city level of really investing in the, the creative small business capital that I feel like, um, has been no ignored some times for some larger projects that don't always trickle down.:
Speaker 3:
13:08
I feel like there tends to be a lot of talk about the creative capital, but there needs to be some more obvious steps towards bringing that to fruition. We see communities around providence thriving kind of faster than we are, and there's some major core fundamentals that I think have to be a change to kind of bring us up to speed. Um, I mean from our point of view, like the foods like scope, like if you think of some other towns around the country that are the same kind of vibe as us, like if you think of Austin, Texas or like just some other kind of artsy places. Um, they have like kind of food truck areas and there's less of a barrier to entry to like kind of have this gathering space and that can go with like art, music, food, I'm whatever. I'm just like not, not having so much red tape around, like just like letting there be some grandfathered in.:
Speaker 3:
13:59
Like just gathering places for art, for music. Just kind of subsidized like just the, I don't know if there's a lot of old laws in place and that I just feel like, yeah, like there needs to be so in more like that has this innovative spirit like tearing down some of this red tape. Um, also, you know, risky. They're doing like, you know, they put out such great work, but like some of those high end university resident Brown, like there needs to be more collaboration. Like, why are those students going to school for city planning, not doing projects in real time in this town? And like Rizvi there's great like designers, why can't they designed some like dope playgrounds for kids or like turn some of these empty lots and providence and dilapidated properties into like a PR school project, um, and put those kinds of tax dollars that they're back into the community. Um, I think that there's a lot of things, small changes like that that could be done like, um, just to kind of help us get up to speed with all of our neighbors and be the creative capital that we are supposed to be.:
Speaker 1:
15:06
I completely agree that communication between institutions, between stakeholders in the city, you know, not naming names, but just getting that more fluid that could just grease the wheels and ease of a lot of issues from the management of Kennedy Plaza to the process of opening up, you know, a food business such as yours. I mean, those things could probably be in reality, like you say, with, with a new vision. It's almost a conservative way of thinking about government. And it's, it's a healthy version of that in my opinion. It's just like how can we go in, you know, yeah, you're going to take away revenue, but at the same time, how can we stimulate the economy to make that revenue back? And then some:
Speaker 3:
15:48
100% um, yeah, I think I've heard of some other cities having automated like online site. So say you are someone like us that you want to open a hot dog cart, you can go to a website ideally that would have the list of like one, two, three, four, five. Here are the live links to get this done. I'm just a little bit more handholding there and like clarity because there is a lot of um, information that is kind of getting misfired from every direction. Yeah.:
Speaker 1:
16:17
So it's interesting a lot of people and book but talk, it's got some issues right now. We know that for sure. But Hey, they've actually got their restaurant application system online where you can basically have zero trips to city hall. It's all online. Maybe one at the end instead of 10 trips before they ran the lean system on it. So it can be done here, but it's again, it's about everybody getting on board. I think that's the big thing. Totally. Um, and yeah, there's the great divide in providence meant everybody loves hot dogs. Like literally that's one of the like music, like it's not just food, like everyone loves food, but your background informs your approach whether or not something's exotic or home based or quick or what. But I feel like you have, you each have such an interesting lens into Providence, the different types of people that must come up to your stand on a, on a, you know, an event by event basis. Do you experience that? Do you feel like there's, am I crazy and think, I think you've actually hit it on the head. Definitely:
Speaker 4:
17:17
the other day where hotdogs almost give us a leg up because everyone can come to it and enjoy it and you know, it has this familiarity. But that familiarity, we can also use as a vehicle to play with a lot of different flavors and, you know, different exotic things. And, you know, from a little kid to, you know, an 80 year old man who's looking for a, you know, old style wiener, you know, it, uh, can, uh, it can. Yeah. So it's definitely can be very cross cultural co cross, you know, any age. Yeah.:
Speaker 3:
17:51
Oh, and then obviously as you know, as a vegetarian as well, um, we have veggie dogs and carrot dog. So we, um, we just did an event downtown within down city Saturday. They took the former former Taco fest and turn it into the Rock Garden Party. Um, and it was a great event. And that's, those are really that we can like talking about how our clientele is so diverse. So you see a child wanting a, you know, plain hot dog and then someone's like, oh, I love, bond me of bond me toppings. And um, yeah, everyone has a connection and you really do see everyone, all different socioeconomic levels. Um, and that's another thing we keep in mind is that we try to have our price point be low enough to that. Like anyone can come off the street and be like nourished by this so we can kind of fill in the blank for whatever your experience you're looking for.:
Speaker 3:
18:44
Um, we have fun kind of like branding too, like a unicorn with a hot dog as a horn is one of our logos. Um, so I have people in line just buying bumper stickers too. So it's like we need wizards here for you. Do you want to like just fill up that hole and get full or do you want this like crazy we need experience or do you just want a Unicorn bumper sticker? Like we got you. It's magical. Yeah, definitely. What's next? What's the, what are the next steps? I know there's a lot in the works. Yeah. So um, we're opening up a bar with some partners on the west side, the West End, um, right off the Elmwood down the street from here actually. Um, so we'll have, we won't ever is there, but they will be doing pop up appearances. Um, I'll let Luke talk a little bit more about that because he's kind of psychology expert.:
Speaker 4:
19:37
So we got an opportunity to open up a bar and learn kind of that process. Um, and then hopefully, you know, we just want to get our brand out there more. You know, we, we look at ourselves as, you know, we need wizard is just part of what we want to do. And eventually, you know, we'd like to have maybe some more established brick and mortar situations that are part of our part of our identity and brand knows the fantastical food group and:
Speaker 3:
20:06
yeah, that's our LLC.:
Speaker 4:
20:08
Yeah. And, uh, hopefully we can take all these experiences and put something that is unique and creative and really fitting in the city of Providence.:
Speaker 3:
20:18
Yeah. So that was cool. Yeah. The overall goal I think will be to have several sort of IX. We love the experience. That's how we got started was like, come to this weird backyard and you're going to get a heck of an experience. So, um, we want to bring these interactive kind of like homey feeling experiences across the board in different concepts. And then we'll always have weenie wizard will always be like our cart, um, that can appear places, but it will be nice to kind of spread our wings. Um, and yeah, but it was our soul, like it really started with weenie wizard. Just um, yeah. Um, it all started with the cart. It makes perfect sense.:
Speaker 1:
20:58
Last question. Um, so you mentioned your partner's on the bark. What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with real estate and property owners in the city? I'm always wondering about that, you know, like whether it's the big names, you know, you're buff, chase, Joe Paly, nine owed Pelino and Nick's on Westminster or there's some partnerships there. CC, interesting economic stimulation happening by, by building owners and managers. Um, is that something you think about at all or,:
Speaker 4:
21:26
oh yeah, all the time. And, uh, it's a, it's definitely a learning process, you know, and it's a, it's a dynamic that I feel like you could just have to approach it where you're hopefully bringing something to the table that they appreciate and they see that and that, you know, you're both getting out of the deal what you want. And, um, luckily, you know, our partners are really, they have a really good sensibility and they're really looking to pay homage and history to the building we're in. And they're not just all about the money, you know, which I think is important, you know, it's not so much about the bottom line and there's always going to be interesting aspects of the relationship that, you know, you maybe weren't expecting or a, you weren't like, didn't really consider that'll pop up because, but at the same time, these things cost money, you know, and it's, uh, you know, we're not all born millionaires, but you know, it's, uh, I don't know.:
Speaker 3:
22:21
We're actually, so the partners for our bar are the building owners that the bar is in. Um, and it's cool because, so they have this huge, and bill, it used to be a jewelry factory and then a rubber factory before then, um, since they opened the space, um, they put a commercial kitchen in it and a company called pilot works, used to be out of that kitchen. Uhm, now need donuts, took it over. But the building owners have always made sure that, um, like the community gets to use that kitchen. Um, so he could have, I know for a fact that there were offers on the space for something that would maybe generate more income. Um, but it would be exclusive. So I think the goal is that, you know, it, they've always wanted this space to be accessible by the public and kind of have to stimulate this small food economy. Um, and I, I'd like to think in the same way with us partnering with them, um, that having them, you know, we'll bring, bring our sensibility to that bar and they're giving us the chance, which in turn helps stimulate the kind of small business and food economy. Um, so yeah, it'd be nice if every person that one property kind of need that like a stipulation.:
Speaker 1:
23:38
I think it's an underappreciated relationship, you know, owner building owner or manager based in situation too. You know, tanning in a small business or creative capacity. That partnership can forge the foundation for cities or neighborhoods. I experienced that in New York where I was able to open up a venue where we lived in the back of it, had band practice spaces, a DIY venue. I shouldn't say once it got real, we got out, but we would never have been able to do it if it weren't for the, the, the partner that we had in this building owner, he just had a dilapidated building in an area that was essentially a drug den. Cars on fire. Now good luck if mean you're talking about $7,000 a month for a loft in this neighborhood. So I wonder how much of that could happen in providence where there's, it's really like one on one, like this guy owns a building.:
Speaker 1:
24:28
These people, this guy, this girl, whoever owns the building and these people have an idea. Let's make it happen and then boom, that neighborhood explodes. Of course there's the the gentrification concern but you, you know, you have to temper that with bringing the communities into these projects of course. And that takes time. Um, I worked for a pilot works actually when I was there and I did see a lot of the forefront of the gentrification issue of surrounding neighbors in that space and it's something to be sensitive to. Of course we like had a lot of our written material translated in Spanish and some other languages we tried to take, like we had open houses, like we tried to let people know this may look new and very scary and we don't, no one wants to take over space. We hope it does not like hiker rent prices, especially given the commercial kitchen being in there.:
Speaker 1:
25:25
I tried to let people know that in fact this was a good, a good thing for the community where like there's a pretty low barrier of entry to like start your own food business and like that can, you don't have to be high income to afford that. Like we certainly aren't in the high income bracket bracket, so I'm already, it's gotten better. So I think, you know, it takes time and that's the problem with neighborhood evolution is there are those two sides and we have to find a way to have harmony I guess between the two views. Right. I agree. And it's best operated in an organic fashion. I think meetings are important in this, things of that nature. Um, it's better off you just, you know, you walk into a restaurant and for me hack my way through Spanish to order, you know, figure out what's vegetarian, what's not in the neighborhood and then by six months later that's a high five and you can actually speak to each other. Yeah. That relationship I think is a lot better and can at least overcome that. That challenge that we're going to face here in providence in a very short amount of time is because that's going to be one solution to the housing crisis. Well go out to Elmwood and let's buy up a bunch of those properties out there. And then, well, who gets, who gets the short end of that before here? Now 100%:
Speaker 4:
26:45
has definitely always something to be conscious of, you know, and especially as the city changes and hopefully, you know, comes into its own, you know, it's just have to be really considerate of everyone around, you know, and it's like a throw it together.:
Speaker 3:
26:58
Yeah. Yeah. Well, can I have faith in Providence? Um, so many times we were like, we're getting older. Should we try a Portland, Oregon or somewhere else? Just while we were still young. Um, and then we, we always come back to it. Um, and we're like, no, for some reason this city, it's so weird. It has a hold on us and there's a creative grit to it. I think. Um, we won, although we explained earlier that there are all these like problems and things that would be nice to be fixed and red tape taken down. That grit that still is there and like being at the forefront of the change is really exciting. Um, and it's a lot more exciting than being in a polished, ready, made place that has it all figured out. Um, I think we're just all tortured artists or something and when, yeah.:
Speaker 4:
27:44
Yeah. There's like a similar moment when you bite into a weenie wizard dog or if you're at a lightening bolt show or whatever it is. If you're watching nick Mattie yellow, read something into it, you know, tell often teleprompter or whatever it is to just similar, it's like a bell that rings down and you kind of never really goes away even if you can't hear it anymore. That grits always in the, the work in providence I think.:
Speaker 3:
28:05
I think so too. Yeah, it is authentic. So hopefully everyone sticks around and we can make change together 25 years, 25 minutes, whatever it is right here for the long haul.:
Speaker 5:
28:17
As always, thanks for joining in on the Bartholomew Tom podcast. Remember brand new episodes every Tuesday and Friday and you can find every episode at Bartholomew [inaudible] Dot Com our I podcast.com or wherever you'd like to get your podcasts. Until next time on Bell Bartholomew. We'll talk soon.:
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