Frank Talk: A Look At The Recession In Connecticut
May 11, 2009
The barber clutches his bag of hot dogs in one hand and tries to quantify his shrinking wages and tips with his other.
The security guard swallows the last of his chili dog while complaining about the overtime hours he's no longer getting.
The woman on disability passes her husband a bag of dogs and pauses to talk about her first trips to a food bank.
A recession rages around him, but Steve Conlon pays it no heed. His business is selling hot dogs on the edge of a gravelly Hartford parking lot. And so far, the Newington man says, "Nothing's changed."
He sets up his stand in the bed of his rusty red pickup on Park Street at 10 a.m. as he has for the past 36 years. He posts no signs. He just pitches a green awning. His customers know; the hot dog man is open for business.
They want hot dogs with chili. Chili and mustard. Chili, mustard and onions — that's the most popular order.
They come from everywhere — parking attendants from downtown lots, linen workers from Hartford Hospital, bus drivers taking a break from their routes. They form a circle around his stand in the Save-A-Lot parking lot, fill up on $2 dogs and shoot the breeze — talking about hard times, even if Conlon doesn't.
"It's a break from the world," says Edwin Nieves, a Hartford security guard whose hours have been cut from 70 to 40 a week. "I'll still go nowhere for lunch but here."
His loyal customers humble Conlon. He insists, "It's just the chili."
Then a teenager orders a hot dog with onions — no chili — and all eyes turn to Conlon.
He shrugs, "Must be a new guy."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at