ST. LOUIS – Steve Ewing, owner of Steve’s Hot Dogs, was standing behind the register at his Tower Grove East restaurant Wednesday evening and found out he won $25,000 to help his hot dog shop.
Discover has been awarding black-owned businesses to help keep their business’ afloat since mid-July. This week, with the help of the St. Louis Community on social media, Steve’s Hot Dogs was the winner.
“It’s amazing. It’s kind of overwhelming actually. We found out we won, I kind of broke down. I was like, I can’t believe this actually happened; this was pretty cool,” Ewing said.
2020 has been a rollercoaster for Steve’s Hot Dogs, even before the coronavirus pandemic. In January, Ewing decided it was time to close his business for good. He spent 11 years transforming his business from a hot dog cart to locations in The Hill and then down to one in Tower Grove East.
But Ewing said the community did not let him close.
“I’m like, ‘You know what I think? It might be time to get out.’ And so I decided to close and the neighborhood and the community decided that they didn’t want us to close,” he said. “So for a week leading up to the closure, we had record business.”
With new partners, Ewing reopened his business a few weeks later.
“We got open and things were going great, new energy, new love, new life,” he said.
Just weeks later, COVID hit the region. Even while his own business was struggling to stay afloat, he turned to help his own community.
“When COVID hit, we knew a lot of people lost their jobs, people were homeless, they didn’t actually have food and some people didn’t want to come out and actually tell you that they didn’t have food,” he said. “We were running around town delivering meals to those folks.”
Ewing and his team said it was their goal to go out and feed people. And that’s just what they did. They took food to first responders, police officers, firefighters, truckers, and anyone who needed a meal.
“I can’t think of a company here in this part of the city that is just do deserving of this honor, because they really are a community restaurant, it’s not just a place of business,” Patricia Thomas, a longtime customer of Steve’s Hot Dogs said his store is an anchor in the community.
With the $25,000 from Discover, Ewing will continue to give back to the community and make sure that he doesn’t lose any staff as the weather cools down and a new slow season begins.
“We’ll make sure that we have a little bit to pad expenses as we get slower,” he said “We can keep everybody on, even if we slow down, we’ll have a little bit to pad payroll.”
Ewing also said that as the weather cools down, it brings more challenges to his business operation. With a small eating facility inside his restaurant, he can’t allow people to sit inside. With the extra money from Discover, he plans to upgrade his patio area to help keep his customers warm and safe as they adjust to the coronavirus pandemic during the cooler months.