When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it deeply affected many of Bobby Morelli’s small business clients. Many of his small business clients closed their businesses because of the pandemic. At that point, he realized he had to pivot from his marketing and web design business. This sudden change of events caused Bobby to start brainstorming to look for a new sustainable business venture. Bobby thought this new opportunity would be a great way to bond with Brooklyn, his 9-year-old daughter.
Since the global pandemic affected many of Bobby’s small business clientele who he partnered with him for marketing and web designing services, pivoting was crucial. Most of his clientele downsized or closed due to the global pandemic. He initially thought about ice cream and cookies but quickly realized it would be a seasonal venture. Then he thought about hotdogs; he noted that people are always searching for a good hotdog. The Hot Dog Box serves the traditional Chicago style hotdog, gourmet hotdogs, and sauces. The next goal was to find a good location. Bobby reached out to the team at www.boxville.org and secured a 400 square foot shipping container located in Bronzeville. The Boxville organization allows entrepreneurs the space to incubate a startup business inside of a thriving community market. The Hot Dog box is currently located at 332 E. 51st Street in Bronzeville. The shipping container was originally black. Bobby used his marketing skills and came up with the idea to paint the shipping box RED. This helps the box stand out, plus the color represents food, hunger, and love. The Hot Dog Box was launched in August 2020.
Bobby continues to come up with ways to help the business stand out from its competition. Many menu combinations are influenced by what the Morelli family makes at home, including the unique sauces. He also tries to cater to different dietary needs by offering salmon dogs, turkey hotdogs, vegan dogs, and a filet minion hotdog. The “Bronzeville” filet minion hot dog is the most famous hotdog on the menu. The daily menu includes the staple Chicago Style hotdog, the filet minion dog, and a weekly special.
Bobby did not want to miss an opportunity to spend time with his daughter, so he incorporates her into the business. He takes pride in being a “Girl Dad” to two young girls. Bobby also thought it was essential to set the foundation of the business with Brooklyn. Plus, it is hard to find qualified candidates who will remain loyal and consistent in the current climate.
Bobby thinks the father/daughter team makes them stand out from the competition. He hopes to teach his daughter work ethic and customer service, which will be transferable skills as she gets older. He keeps a steady balance of childhood experiences, family time, and work experience for his daughter. Brooklyn has light-duty including greeting the customers, serving food and taking photos. The customers and residents are excited to see this father/daughter duo in action at The Hot Dog Box. They also have (3) gourmet sauces and other products that ship across the country. Bobby is also able to incorporate his 1st passion, which is music. The customers can often hear music playing when they visit The Hot Dog Box.
Bobby notes the increased media coverage has brought about more customers. Most times, there is a long line of customers waiting to get their hands on a good hotdog. He would have loved to remain in the Bronzeville neighborhood, but he could not find adequate space to expand The Hot Dog Box. One day he received an email from a business owner in the Portage Park neighborhood, and it was an offer he could not refuse. He plans to take the shipping container with them as a reminder of their humble beginnings. The residents of Portage Park are excited that The Hot Dog Box is coming soon.
Bobby is known throughout the community as the guy with the black leather crown. His signature crown helped him turn his outlook around after going through a very dark period. He started saying daily affirmations, which reminded him that he is a KING! He put the black leather crown on one day and has worn it ever since! He has been crowned the “Sausage King” in Bronzeville. For more information on The Hot Dog Box, please check out www.thehotdogbox. and social media @thehotdogbox.
Theresa Horton is a contributing writer for the Chicago Defender. Find her on social media @passionateresources.