Occupy protest waning; just ask hot-dog vendor
Businesses near Westlake Center are taking the Occupy Seattle protest in stride, and at least one is welcoming it with open arms.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There is one business at Westlake Park that says it hopes the Occupy Seattle protesters stick around: a place called Dog in the Park that sells, what else, hot dogs.
On Monday, as the protest faded — down to maybe 100 to 150 people — it was back to the usual, middling October sales for the hot-dog place.
"They can stay here as long as they want. In fact, I invite the entire town," says Ramazan Senturk, the owner, about the demonstrators.
His business is in a nook at the end of a triangular office building that dates back to 1907 and lines a portion of the east side of the park. It is among a group of businesses, with their storefronts directly by the park, that say they are taking the protest in stride, at least the small-business owners willing to be quoted, and not managers who have to refer comments to corporate communications.
Talking to demonstrators, who on Monday included a lot of street youths and sometimes-disheveled folks who seemed lost in their own world, it wasn't clear what next would happen for the Seattle version of the protest.
Some 150 tents had come down by early Monday, either with or without cooperation from their owners, with the cops arresting eight people for obstruction.
"If the mayor wants to come and spoon with us and get our body heat to stay warm, tell him to come down," says Leigha Shouse, 33, who says she's a house framer who hasn't found work in that field for six years.
But, for sure, Saturday was a fantastic day for hot-dog sales.
Something like 3,000 people gathered at Westlake, and Dog in the Park sold 600 hot dogs at prices ranging from $3.25 (small beef) to $4.65 (Polish sausage).
That's three times normal sales for a Saturday in October, says Senturk.
Of course, these being Seattle demonstrators, they often skipped the meat and ordered the tofu kielbasa.
At Romax Shoes, home of "Euro-comfort shoes," manager Curt Jongeward says that with the slow economy, it's hard to tell the day-after-day effects of protesters at the park.
"But Saturday there were 3,000 people here, and it was one of our biggest days," Jongeward says about sales. A week ago on Monday he closed at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than usual, because of slow business.
The dozen and a half cops stationed at the park also seemed, well, kind of bored. Three of them hung around outside the See's Candies store, one of them with a lollipop in his mouth, another fiddling with a smartphone.
Next door, at the Bobachine Café, which sells bubble tea, fruit smoothies and baguettes, owner Sheila Lock says that when protesters first arrived at the beginning of the month, it also meant the arrival of the street kids.
Her regular customers who work in nearby downtown buildings weren't deterred, she says.
"They said, 'I'm still going to eat,' " says Lock.
But she wonders how many other potential customers not used to the downtown scene stayed away.
Lock says she's made special deals with the protesters.
She's sold them 3 liters of coffee at $9, a 30 percent discount. She's allowed a couple of people who were streaming the protest on the Internet to sit at her cafe, although they did have a gift card to buy items.
On Saturday, as the protest swelled, the hot-dog stand stayed open until 1 a.m. to feed those demonstrating about no work.
Luk Kadyraliev, 21, who this quarter is carrying 18 credits at Seattle Central Community College, along with a 3.6 grade-point average, works at the stand for $8.50 an hour. With tips, on a full day of working he might make an extra $50.
He has given water to protesters who asked, and let them charge their cellphones.
Kadyraliev got the job by walking up to Ramazan Senturk at the stand and asking if there was work available.
He got a job on the spot.
Senturk gives his workers authority to close early if there are no customers, or stay open if there are.
"I have myself closed and cleaned the griddle five times, and open it up again five times if people keep coming," says Senturk. "As long as there is business."
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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