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City closes hot dog stand teen hoped would raise money for disabled parents

A Michigan teenager whose hot dog stand was shut down before it even opened has recouped his losses.

Nathan Duszynksi, 13, said he decided to open a hot dog stand in his hometown of Holland, Mich., to help out his disabled parents. His mother has epilepsy and his father has multiple sclerosis.

He saved $1,200 – mostly money he made by mowing lawns and shoveling snow – and bought a cart.

He also checked with the city to make sure he didn’t need any licenses or permits, and even went to city hall in person with his mother.

“We wanted to make sure,” Nathan’s mother Lynette Johnson told WFMY News. “We stopped in there in person about a month ago and asked, ‘Do we need a business permit license?’ and [the city] said no.”

Only 10 minutes after arriving to set up Nathan’s Hot Dog Hut on July 17, a city zoning official shut him down.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m getting shut down already, and I haven’t even started,” Nathan said. “I’m just trying to bring in some money for [my parents] and the household when they’re struggling.”

The official said the cart’s location, which was in a private parking lot of a sporting goods store on the edge of the city’s downtown commercial district, violated a city ordinance that bans food carts in that area in order to minimize competition for the eight tax-paying restaurants a couple of blocks away.

“We would like to see him do this,” City of Holland Assistant Manager Greg Robinson told WFMY. “This is a great opportunity for him, so it would be great to work with him, and we can in many commercial areas in the city. This just happens to be one where we can’t.”

Nathan’s parents said they like the location of his stand because it seemed safe, on private property and across the street from city hall, and it made good business-sense.

“[The store’s owner’s] whole idea was that Nate could set up his cart here and help him promote the rental of his bikes.” Nathan’s stepfather, Doug Johnson, said to WFMY. “It kind of worked hand-in-hand.”  

After hearing of the teen’s troubles, staff members at a packaging company contacted Nathan and bought the cart for $2,500, more than what Nathan paid for it.

“[Nathan is] just a real go-getter, and at that age that’s unusual,” Carolyn Norman of Shoreline Container company said. “It’s unusual, I think, that they can relate to adults like he does and so he really caught our eye, so to speak.”

Now, Doug Johnson said the family’s next step is to file a petition at city hall in an effort to amend the current ordinance that banned Nathan’s stand in the first place.

In the meantime, Norman said the company plans to let Nathan use the cart for special occasions, such as a wedding Nathan’s Hot Dog Hut has already booked. 


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