High Tide

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Hot Dog Tommy

Hot Dog Tommy, Cape May NJDon’t feel bad for Tom Snyder and his wife, Mary. Though the space at Hot Dog Tommy’s, their tiny stand on Jackson Street, may seem small as you get handed your Black Russian or Carrot Dog, it’s just the right size for this freewheelin’ pair.

“We don’t need big spaces anymore,” said Tom. “Compacting one’s life is a neat thing. “

As I sat down with Tom on the Promenade while he compacted his life into one story, I realized I was sharing wooden slats with half of the world’s coolest couple, who just happen to own a hot dog stand.

Tom and Mary moved to Cape May in 1984 when they bought The Manor House bed and breakfast on Hughes Street. They had never been here before.

What made them do that?

“Drugs,” Tom answered without delay. Laughter followed a perfect comedic pause. “I’m kidding.”

After they sold The Manor House, Tom and Mary’s excellent adventures continued when they bought the Dry Dock Restaurant on Texas Avenue. They sold it five years later, bought an RV and drove around the country.

Say what? I can almost smell the patchouli.

“We first worked at Grand Teton National Park. Then we found work in South Dakota. I was a buffalo tour guide, a guy from New Jersey who took people through the black hills and buffalo herd at the Custer State Park,” Tom said. “We did that for three years and loved it. Then we found a gig at Disneyworld in Orlando for the winter months. That’s when Mary had this great idea to do a small business. Nothing with “e” in it – employees, equipment, etc.,” said Tom. “That was 10 years ago. Hot Dog Tommy’s started growing and now we have employees. And equipment.”

And to think this Hot Dog was a vegetarian when he first came to Cape May. Not anymore, though he still has tendencies.

“Last year we introduced the carrot dog. It’s a steamed carrot, grilled and served with toppings. We have 19 different toppings. The mashed potato tornado can be vegetarian. We do salads, too. It’s a hot dog joint, but we do have vegetarian options,” Tom said.

And they have housing options. The Snyders split their time summering in Cape May and wintering down south.

“We found a corner of southwest Georgia called Americus in Sumter County – pecans, peanuts and cotton. We park our rig on US Highway 280 East. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter live on 280 in Plains, Georgia. He’s our Sunday school teacher.”

Okay, now I really do think you’re on drugs. Jimmy Carter is your Sunday School teacher?

“He’s taught Sunday school since he was in the Naval Academy. The only years he didn’t teach was when he was President,” said Tom. “He’s phenomenal.”

Tom’s been a buffalo tour guide, Jimmy Carter’s student, and kept a straight face while wearing a hot dog hat. What’s next?

“What’s next? Did you not follow the chronology of the things I’ve done? Whenever Mary and I stop doing something we have not an idea in hell what we’re doing next. On the Hot Dog Tommy tee shirt, we have our mantra: Relish Today, Ketchup Tomorrow.

“Finally I found a business that fits my philosophy of life, ‘Manana, who knows?’ ”

(Disclaimer – no actual drugs were taken during the interview and writing of this story. We did have a hot dog or two, though.) cape may dog friendly beaches

Editor’s Note: This Cape May Character article written by Stefanie Godfrey was originally published in the July 2012 issue of Cape May Magazine