The episode, titled “The COVID Small Business Boom,” discusses businesses that were started as a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Chris Van Jura is a business owner in the Washington D.C. area. After being laid off from his restaurant work, Chris had an idea. He bought and converted a used food cart into his new hot dog business, Catalyst Hot Dogs. The good news is that the business is picking up steam.
“Chris saw this cart and had a kind of revelation,” said The Indicator from Planet Money host Stacey Vanek Smith in the episode. “He’d worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years and was managing a fancy restaurant in Washington, D.C. But he got laid off during the pandemic, and it was a terrible experience. He had a young child and a mortgage, but he wasn’t sure what to do. He thought, you know, food service, hospitality – that is what I know.”
Mr. Van Jura found what would become Catalyst Hot Dogs in the parking lot of a Korean church on Randolph Road: “For four years, it had been sitting there with a for sale sign. So I was like, oh, that’s it. And that was it. I didn’t look at anything else. Truly, I’m sitting here getting worked up thinking about it,” Van Jura said to The Indicator from Planet Money.
Catalyst Hot Dogs, which is “Bringing The Jersey Dog to The DMV,” opened in December of last year. Originally setting up shop near Home Depot on Broadbirch Drive in Silver Spring, the cart has since expanded its reach, posting up at Bethesda Big Train games, the Northwest Branch Pool, and The Veridian Apartments.
James Turner, a restaurant veteran with more than 30 years of experience, had recently received a license from the county to begin operating as Beltway Bistro when the vehicle was taken.
The truck, which was reported missing on Memorial Day, was found in Charles County on June 3, badly damaged and completely stripped of equipment. According to reports, Turner had spent more than $50,000 on the truck.
“For those of you who weren’t with us a year ago, Catalyst is not on the road without a go fund me [sic] and your generous support,” Mr. Van Jura said in a Facebook post last June.
Business is picking up as the area is reopening. “Somehow, an opportunity was thrust upon me,” Mr. Van Jura said to The Indicator from Planet Money. “Forgive me, William Shakespeare. And we’re able to do something, you know? I’m trying to make it great. We really are. And we’re having a lot of fun, so – I will say (laughter), contrary to the emotions I’m having right now, I’m very happy.”
Photo: Catalyst Hot Dogs/Facebook