Asheville, North Carolina: Food Vendor Finds Outdoor Movies Make the Party

. John Frank calls himself a party in a box. While squirting mustard and relish on the hot dogs he serves downtown, he was dreaming of something bigger. Frank has operated a hot dog cart in Asheville for more than three years, and before that was a sales manager at a used car lot. He's had a hand in many pots and pans, but making others happy seems to be his niche. His most recent venture is called Firefly Backyard Movies. Frank packs a 12-foot inflatable screen, a projector, his fully loaded hot dog cart and a commercial popcorn popper into his truck with the mission of making others happy. Alyssa Wadham recently became the recipient of Frank's evening magic. For her eighth birthday, the Black Mountain girl invited about 10 other little girls to her party. Tired of the usual suspects for special events, Alyssa's mom, Kathy Wadham, knew Frank from his hot dog business. He told her he was trying to get into the backyard entertainment business, and Kathy's family became one of his first bookings. On a chilly October night, Frank stood watching the group of girls, bundled in blankets and curled up in chairs. He popped in Monsters Vs. Aliens, the birthday girl's choice, and gave his new business a trial run. I'd heard about people doing this, and it seemed like something that'd be fun to do, he said. I've got a nice, friendly neighborhood in West Asheville, and getting a group together and showing movies or sporting events is something different. Kathy knew it would be a night to remember. He's my bud, she said, shivering in the cold as the group of girls watched their movie. He did everything. All I had to do was make the cake. For about $225, those who want a party in a box receive the works. This includes Frank and all his wares: hot dogs, bratwurst, toppings, drinks, popcorn and the big screen. It was definitely worth the money, and all the kids said it was the best party they had ever been to, Kathy said. My daughter was queen for the day at school because everybody was talking about the party.
It was exactly like having a drive-in theater in your backyard. Frank said he's not limiting himself to movies. The ideas are as endless as the toppings on a dog. He visualized groups interested in sporting events and games, or those wanting to play Nintendo Wii with a bunch of friends. Frank said his prices start at $125, which includes the screen, projector and popcorn for 25 guests. For the full showdown that includes food and drinks, the price goes up to $225 or more, depending on the number of people. If you do something well, Frank said, people will give you an opportunity to do something more. He's proof of the strength and success of an entrepreneurial spirit. While doing the dogs, a woman from Biltmore Lake remembered him, and he's since catered a half-dozen events in that area. He's also proof that in a tight economy, people will continue to eat hot dogs and watch movies. Alyssa Wadham is already planning her next birthday. And yes, she's having the hot dog man and his party in a box. It was great, she said. It was the best time ever. Susan Reinhardt source-

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