HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WOWK) -Stewarts Original Hot Dogs have been serving the Huntington community for nearly 90 years, and they have been served at Marshall Football games for more than 30 years. However, it was recently announced that Stewarts and the university’s food supplier, Sodexo, decided to part ways, but some feel the decision might have been more about politics than about dollars and cents.
Del. John Mandt Jr. (R-Cabell), owner of Stewarts Original Hot Dogs, said last Thursday, Sodexo offered him a deal that was hard not to refuse.
They wanted to cut his hot dog stands down from 11 stands to two, and reduce his share from a $1.20 per hot dog to 74 cents.
“Did they make the terms unacceptable, knowing that it would be unacceptable, yeah I think they did,” said Mandt Jr.
He also said he can’t help but wonder if the company’s hard-line stance was more about politics than about money with the start of season about nine days away when the decision was made.
“Everything was going fine, and we had a great working relationship, and then all of the sudden things change. It makes you wonder”.
Mandt Jr. also said the majority of the sales he makes off his hot dogs at Marshall football games he gives back to the university.
His comments were perceived to be ignorant, insensitive, and anti-Muslim by the people who signed the petition.
“This is how it is supposed to be when a business violates general community standards by marginalizing part of the community. This is how we respond,” said Dakota Nelson, community activist.
Nelson, who was one of the organizers of the petition, and lost to Mandt Jr in 2018 for the District 16 seat in Cabell County.
He said he plans to run again in 2020, but his motives behind the petition weren’t political.
“When he is making profits off of part of our community that he is also choosing to speak disparagingly about and marginalize, we are saying he shouldn’t also be making money off of them.”
Mandt Jr said his words have been misinterpreted by the people who signed the petition, and he, his family, and his business embrace inclusiveness and are not about hate.
The delegate said the feedback he has gotten from the community since the announcement with Sodexo has been incredible.
He has received hundreds of texts, phone calls, emails, including people coming to his hot dog stand offering him support.
“I am disappointed. I have known John for years. I love the hot dogs. I have always enjoyed coming here and eating them. I’ll miss seeing them at the games,” said Lynne Taylor.
Nelson said he has also received positive feedback from the community, but Mandt Jr hopes his supporters lead him back into Marshall games, and the District 16 seat in 2020.
Sodexo didn’t respond back for this story, but an official with Marshall said in a statement: “Contract negotiations between Sodexo and Stewarts are private. Marshall was not involved in the negotiations”.