Entrepreneur Frustrated With Product Begins Making His Own
Columbus' economy is a mosaic. It's fueled by state government, private industry and non-profits. But, at the street level, entrepreneurs often carve out a niche. That's the case with 31-year-old entrepreneur Tyrone Jackson who came to Central Ohio from L.A. via Nashville. Most weekdays you'll find Tyrone Jackson behind the grill of The Good Frank food cart on a downtown Columbus sidewalk. Here on East Broad Street just a few blocks from the Statehouse Jackson is grilling gourmet, all beef frankfurters and stadium franks. Customers who stop by say they like what they taste.
Delicious. It's absolutely delicious. It's one of the best I ever had.
It's an exceptional hot dog, for sure.
Tyrone Jackson describes himself as a second-generation street vendor. He's a Los Angeles native who came to Columbus from Nashville where he'd graduated with a political science degree from Fisk University. But Jackson says he was disillusioned with the road that lay ahead. "You work all your life and you have retirement and then by the time you get free from your work your body starts to break down," Jackson says. "So I wanted to figure out a way to have time with my family and enough money to meet my needs and the hot dog thing just kept coming back up." So Jackson started selling hotdogs in Nashville. But he says he was troubled that he could not trace the origin of the meat and he didn't know what was in the hotdogs he was selling.
Every phone call I made to every manufacturer my heart just sunk more and more because I was just like, 'I don't know what I'm serving.
"We're telling our customers that we have the best quality gourmet hotdogs and we don't even know where this stuff is coming from." So Jackson made an ethical decision. "I literally shut down my business and we lost everything," Jackson says. Jackson and his wife Marcella moved to Columbus where Tyrone got a job at Children's Hospital mopping floors and washing dishes, all the while dreaming big dreams about a different kind of hotdog business: one that did not include mass-produced 'mystery meat.' That meat, Jackson says, is 'the epitome of unhealthiness.' "We want to make them in reverence to the balance that the human body has. So they're really more like a sausage. They're more like a traditional old-world Frankfurt-style sausage instead of this industrial by-product," Jackson says. The meat used in The Good Frank hotdogs is locally raised. It's one way the couple keeps an eye on quality. In the beginning Marcella Jackson did her own blending of meat and spices. "I actually hand-made all of our hot dogs," Marcella Jackson says.
By hand. Whew. And anybody who knows anything about making hotdogs and sausages; that process is very tedious.
Demand for The Good Frank has grown, so now they're produced in Marshallville, Ohio, using the couple's recipes. "Our primary reason is freshness and accountability," Jackson says. "When you're dealing with buyers that are buying locally they can tell you about how the meat is being raised." That's one reason that an independent grocery store in Clintonville has added The Good Frank's products to their meat department. It's an important step for the Jacksons' two-year-old company. "We are here at the Clintonville Community Market and The Good Frank is our newest meat vendor and we sell their stadium frankfurters and their beef hotdogs," says Elisabeth Warner, the Clintonville Community Market's outreach coordinator. She calls The Good Frank an "artisan" frankfurter.
Because we share in the vision of what we think local foods can be and what they can do for the local economy, it was sort of a natural fit that we would come together.
The Jacksons are still hard at work trying to expand sales of their products. "Family members and even friends and associates that were around us looked at us like we were crazy," says Marcella Jackson.
But people don't understand what it means to really sacrifice to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish.
"We were just hot dog vendors that realized that we were doing something that could be done better," says Tyrone Jackson. "We recognized a problem within our own supply line. And so we set out almost against every imaginable odd to correct it." Asked if he feels that he's succeeded Tyrone Jackson put it this way: "I succeed day by day and I'm still here so I'd say that my record is one of success." Jackson has another project in the works; teaching the principals of entrepreneurship to the needy.