What I Do: Steve Ewing, founder of Steve's Hot Dogs
Steve Ewing has done more in his five decades than many will do in a lifetime. Not only did he launch beloved restaurant Steve’s Hot Dogs, he’s also the frontman of The Urge, a nationally touring band that got its start in St. Louis in the late ’80s. He’s worked with investor and TV personality Marcus Lemonis to get meals to those in need. And he’s also placed in multiple bodybuilding competitions. Here, Ewing shares the history of his eponymous restaurant that is celebrated by the community and why fitness has always been one of his top priorities.
“Hot dogs were a simple food that I loved while traveling with The Urge. It started as a hot dog cart down by the [Mississippi] River in 2009 to make a little extra cash and feed people after our concerts. The idea was to elevate the experience of eating a hot dog, and I realized I really enjoyed it. I decided I wanted a brick-and-mortar so I could do more with the menu and be more creative.”
“In 2011, we opened on the Hill, and business was going really well. A few years later, in 2014, we opened a second location in Tower Grove East next to Tick Tock Tavern. Business really took off there, but things hit a dead spot on the Hill when the Kingshighway bridge came down, so we didn’t renew that lease.”
“The Hill restaurant was there for almost 10 years, and it became such a family-oriented thing. We watched kids grow up there. But I was so busy working, working, working that I didn’t realize it had made that much of a connection to the community.”
“In early 2020, I decided I wanted to close the Tower Grove shop too. I was getting a little burned out and was running out of operating cash, so I thought I’d go back to playing music full time. I called Danni Eickenhorst, who has worked behind the scenes with us as a marketing consultant for about a decade, and asked if she’d write the press release, and she said, ‘I think maybe you should consider not closing.’”
“After we made the announcement, I realized the community really wanted us to stay open. For about a week straight, we had lines around the block, so I was able to pay off some bills, and we decided to reopen the business as a partnership [with Eickenhorst]. We still closed at the end of January  and took a month to regroup before reopening in the beginning of March.”
“Then Covid hit. There was so much insecurity, and everything tanked for a minute. We realized we’d have to change gears and get ahead of online ordering and curbside – pretty much innovating on a daily basis.”
“As soon as they announced there was no school, there was this stark realization that there’s a bunch of kids that might go hungry, so we started working with food pantries. When people realized we were doing that, they wanted to help, so people were donating, and it snowballed. It’s awesome to be in a position where you can actually help out.”
“That got the attention of [investor] Marcus Lemonis. He was doing a Twitter-based campaign to get food out – to the homeless and elderly was his main goal – but he wanted to do that through small businesses, so he picked a handful across the country. He came in with $20,000 for us to make 2,000 meals.”
“Lately, we’ve been focusing on our collaborations with other local restaurants. We’ll use our hot dogs and then something from their shop. We did one with Crown Candy Kitchen where we added a huge pile of their bacon and made a BLT dog. We usually have a new collaboration every few weeks.”
“I live really close to the old Mangia [Italiano]space, so when it became available, we were interested, but it was about 5,000 square feet, which was too big. We circled back a couple months later and found out they were splitting the property in two, which was perfect.”
“I’ve been competing the past four years as an amateur natural bodybuilder. Fitness has always been my thing – staying in shape for performing. My wife and I have run marathons and half-marathons before, and I gained the confidence to compete in bodybuilding from some friends who said I would be good at that. What it would take as far as training and eating didn’t seem like too far off from what I’ve done in the past just to stay in shape.”
Steve’s Hot Dogs, 3457 Magnolia Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.5953, steveshotdogsstl.com
Tags : People
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