Published: Nov 10, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 10, 2012 04:43 PM
Someday, historians might call it How the East Was Won East Durham, that is and the story will be one of stubborn, incremental gains.
Hopes were high that the TROSA grocery store in what some have despairingly called Durhams combat zone would succeed. It didnt, though not for lack of trying. But as one step follows another, along came Joe Bushfan and his hot dogs.
Bushfan is one smart guy. He had the good sense to marry District Court Judge Elaine Bushfan, for one. And, as editor Mark Schultz noted last week, he had a Newtonian moment several years ago while sitting on the steps of Angier Avenue Baptist Church.
A bit of divine intervention, perhaps? Maybe, but the thoughts that entered Bushfans mind had nothing to do with physics and everything to do with cars streaming by on Angier Avenue.
He counted them, 24 a minute.
And then came his eureka event: Those drivers dont know it, but they need a good-to-the-gills hotdog, and Im the guy whos going to sell them the best wienies in a wrapper theyve ever tasted.
While his wife wielded a gavel in her courtroom, Bushfan manned a $1,500 pushcart in good weather and bad on Angier Avenue. His entrepreneurial instinct for excellence demanded what he regards as the best beef frankfurters on the planet Pearl brand out of Randolph, Mass. and he drove well beyond the horizon to get them.
Bushfans audacity worked. He had former City Councilman Dan Hill as a mentor, but it was Bushfan who did the heavy lifting to turn his idea into reality. He had found a way to make money in one of Durhams unlikeliest places.
Bushfan could have put his stash under a mattress or in an offshore account in the Cayman Islands and no one would have said a word. But he saw in East Durham an opportunity to help a place where dreams all too often go to die.
The former bodyguard bought three properties on Angier Avenue, using a city revitalization grant and tax credits. Thus was born Joes Diner. No more standing in the rain, no more shivering in the cold.
This is more than a diner. It is a place of light and warmth, an outpost in a depressed area.
And as Bushfan will proudly tell you, his diner is ground zero for something that gives Weight Watchers nightsweats: the one-pound, $11 hotdog. Look at it this way: If you have the moxie to take on this alpha male of hotdogs, you are not just eating, youre also creating jobs.
Seriously, Joes next project is a distribution hub for food trucks. The one-pounder will come to you.
City Hall isnt a bystander. The City Council has approved $3.7 million for streetscape improvements along Angier Avenue as part of its Build a Better Block with Tootie effort that gives entrepreneurs 30 days of free office space.
Its the old oil-stain concept in new dress, the same idea that has allowed Joe Bushfan to succeed: Conquer, hold and expand.
Other Joe Bushfans are out there. One is Carolyn Holloway, who owns Tooties Cafe and Grill (namesake of the renewal effort) just down the street from Joes Diner. The rest, well, we just havent met them yet.
Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.