Jaequan Faulkner stood under a shady pop-up tent, shuffling dollar bills and tucking them into a pink cash register, his hazel eyes locked on the next customer.
“You need me?” his uncle called from the screened-in porch as cars whooshed past on Penn Avenue N.
Without looking back, Faulkner, 13, waved him off and picked up his tongs, cradling another hot dog in its bun.
The pop-up Mr. Faulkner’s Old Fashioned Hot Dogs goes far beyond the traditional neighborhood kid’s lemonade stand. It’s a business with a permit from the city of Minneapolis.
Faulkner’s venture, a tabletop of hot dogs, Polish sausages, chips, drinks and condiments, will travel around the North Side this summer, including stops at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct, the Minneapolis Urban League and Sanctuary Covenant Church. Eventually he hopes to move into a food truck.
Sure, it’s a chance for Faulkner to earn some extra spending money, but he says it’s about more than that.
“I like having my own business,” he said. “I like letting people know just because I’m young doesn’t mean I can’t do” anything.
He operates Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving about 20 customers a day. He likes the sense of accomplishment and enjoys projecting a positive image of black youth in his community, something he’s aware isn’t always shown.
The business started in 2016 when Faulkner saw an old hot dog grill at his uncle’s house. After two years of starts and stops, Faulkner stuck with it this summer.
Then he hit a snag: The Minneapolis Health Department called. Someone had complained to the city about the hot dog stand.
But instead of shutting Faulkner down, the Health Department decided to help him meet its standards.
Health Department staff made sure he had the necessary equipment — thermometers, food containers, hand sanitizer and utensil-cleaning stations — as well as knowledge about proper food handling. Once he passed his health inspection, inspectors paid the $87 for the special event food permit, and the city-sanctioned stand opened for business.
Officials in the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) also connected with Faulkner to build his business savvy. Faulkner impressed them with his innate abilities, said Ann Fix, program manager of NEON’s food business incubator.
“Every day I’ve been going home thinking, ‘This young man is the brightness of my day,’ ” she said.
When inspectors talked to Faulkner, he listened intently. When they sat down to talk about business strategy, finances and marketing, Faulkner engaged.
“With Jaequan, it’s an even bigger passion,” Fix said. “It’s not just about the hot dogs, it’s about everything in the community.”
Deandre Harrison stopped by Monday and described Faulkner, who was handing hot dogs out to a crowd, as “amazing” and “inspirational.”
“Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had a hot dog,” he said. “But you’ve got to support it.”
Next year, Faulkner hopes to put 25 cents from every hot dog sale toward raising awareness about youth suicide and depression, something he’s struggled with personally.
Faulkner said working at the hot dog stand has helped build his confidence. On Monday, cars honked as they passed, hands waving out windows.
That positivity, and the opportunity to spread it, is why Faulkner does this.
“You like the money?” one person asked Monday as Faulkner stared down a row of TV cameras.
“No,” Faulkner answered curtly. “It’s not about the money. It’s just something I enjoy doing.”