Biz Buzz: Hot dog vendor forges ahead; antique mall offers new option; popular taproom introduces food

Wes Rainer prepares an order at Hot Diggity Dogz in Dubuque on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 PHOTO CREDIT: NICKI KOHL

Biz Buzz shares business tidbits from around the tri-state area. This week, we highlight developments in Dubuque and Elizabeth, Ill.

For the past five months, entrepreneur Wesley Rainer has watched the COVID-19 pandemic take a major bite out of his business.

Rainer is now hoping a new, more permanent setup will help his Dubuque company weather the storm.

Hot Diggity Dogz began operating out of a food trailer at 1902 Central Ave. last month. Within the structure, workers create and serve hot dogs, Italian beef, Polish sausage and a variety of other sandwiches.

Rainer acknowledged the new approach represents a major change of pace.

In typical times, Rainer would transport a small hot dog stand to various spots around town. He’d frequently target locations — including local businesses and events — where he could expect large gatherings. The spread of COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of the vast majority of events and compelled many employees to work remotely, rather than reporting to the office.

Rainer’s business model went out the window.

“The pandemic rolled around and threw a monkey wrench into all our plans,” he said. “It messed up a lot of what we were trying to do.”

In collaboration with another difference-maker in the Central Avenue corridor, Rainer hatched a plan to keep his business afloat.

He rented a space in the parking lot at 1902 Central Ave. and has since set up a sizable food trailer in that spot.

The trailer helps customers know where they can find Rainer. Perhaps more importantly, it ensures him that he won’t be consistently exposed to the dangers posed by COVID-19.

“We’re not out in the open anymore,” he said. “It offers us protection.”

Tim Hitzler, who owns the property at 1902 Central Ave., is renting the space to Rainer. He believes Hot Diggity Dogz adds an important option in the corridor.

“(Rainer) keeps improving, upgrading and evolving,” said Hitzler. “And his business brings a lot of people to the area.”

Hot Diggity Dogz is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

NEW ANTIQUE OPTION

A popular antique mall in Jo Daviess County is adding another option for antique sellers and buyers alike.

Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co., 300 West St. in Elizabeth, recently launched a consignment shop on its third floor

“It is a nice, appealing new area,” said owner Michael Maynard. “I think it puts a different twist on what we were already doing.”

Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co. is already well known for its antique booths, which are rented out by a wide variety of vendors. Customers can find similar items — ranging from antiques to vintage clothing — on the revamped third floor.

Maynard, meanwhile, believes the consignment space offers a new opportunity for sellers.

“Some people prefer to just come and drop their items off,” he explained. “They don’t want the full commitment of renting (a booth) every month.”

Maynard said major improvements were made to the third story before opening the consignment shop, including putting in new flooring and installing a new roof.

The consignment shop — just like the rest of the antique mall — is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Residents can learn more by visiting grandantiqueco.com or calling 815-858-9477.

GETTING A BYTE

A well-known nightlife destination in Dubuque’s Millwork District is making sure its customers don’t go hungry.

Backpocket Taproom, 333 E. 10th St., debuted a new food option — known as Backpocket Bytes — on Saturday.

“This represents our long-term vision really coming together,” owner Jacob Simmons said.

Backpocket Taproom opened within the Novelty Iron Works building in the spring of 2017. The destination serves beers from Backpocket Brewing, based in Coralville, Iowa.

Recently, Backpocket has opened a “beercade” with retro arcade games in its basement and added games like shuffleboard after expanding its footprint on the main level.

Food options have come and gone in the Novelty Iron Works Building, including Southern Ego, an eatery that drew a big following but elected not to reopen following a mandated closure due to COVID-19, Simmons said.

Backpocket now plans to use the kitchen space utilized by Southern Ego.

“We wanted to make sure customers had a food option and decided to take the bull by the horns,” Simmons said.

Backpocket Bytes will offer “high-end bar food,” according to Simmons. Menu items will include tacos, macaroni-and-cheese, chicken wings and multiple appetizers.

Eventually, food will be served whenever the taproom is open. In the immediate future, however, the eatery will only offer limited hours.

Backpocket Bytes will initially be serving food from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Friday, from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The business can be reached at 563-582-1611.