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March 2006 : :

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Jill Prichard









The Chili Dog Man and his salvaged white van

Photography and text :: Jason A. Givens

LOGAN -- It may not look like much, but there's more to the big white van selling chili dogs in the Hastings parking lot on North 400 Street than meets the eye.

The owner of the van, David Summers, originally from Phoenix, said it's "kind of an interesting story" how he got started selling chili dogs and other items ranging from ham sandwiches to bowls of homemade chili from a van.

Summers said about three years ago, he and a business partner had plans to start a restaurant in Logan. Summers said he invested a lot of money and acquired a lot of debt to start the restaurant. He said about three days before Christmas his partner backed out and said he didn't want to go into the restaurant business.

"I was up to my eyeballs in debt," Summers said. "I panicked and was ready to hitchhike to Florida." Summers said he was hitchhiking and about 30 miles outside of Oklahoma City at about 3 in the morning, in a 1972 Ford LTD doing about 75, when he was rear-ended by a Chevy Tahoe doing 90. He said the car was pushed off the road and rolled over three times.

"I'm all shot to hell," Summers said. "My shoulder needs worked on, my back needs to be worked on, I can't afford the medical bills."

After the accident Summers said he returned to Logan, where he lived all last winter in a van in the Wal-Mart parking lot. He said he returned to Logan because "every time I leave, something weird happens."

Summers said he ended up living in Logan originally because his car broke down. He said he lived in Alaska for about 20 years and ran a janitorial business for about seven years. It was fun and he made a lot of money, he said.

"But, I made the mistake of getting married." He later divorced, left Alaska and ended up doing some work for a farmer in Washington. The farmer gave him an old yellow van and he started traveling around the country for about six months until he broke down in Logan.

He said finally the insurance company gave him just enough money from the accident to take care of some bills. He and his friend Mac salvaged the hot dog van from a field and installed some of the restaurant equipment, which he had purchased when he was planning to start his restaurant.

"I wish I got more business," Summers said. "I just enjoy cooking."

Summers said he was raised by his grandparents and when he was going to school he couldn't learn to read and write. His grandparents wanted him to learn a trade so they sent him to live with his uncle who owned a restaurant. He said he's been working in restaurants off and on since he was about 13.

He said people have been telling him business should increase. "I hope it picks up soon because if not I'm going to end up living in this thing," he said. If business doesn't pick up soon he said he'll end up living in his van again either in the Wal-Mart parking lot or in the hills somewhere.

He said when business takes off he plans on starting a regular restaurant in Logan.

"One thing Logan does need is just a regular restaurant that sells regular food. All the restaurants in Logan are either Mexican or Chinese," he said.

He said he back packed and camped out all over Alaska and did a lot of interesting things. He said he's stood on top of a glacier and he's also seen Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. Sometimes he said it was so cold when he was camping out that he doesn't know how he survived.

"I'm surprised I didn't freeze to death," he said.

Summers said if someone were to write down his life story that no one would believe it.

"People would think it was a work of fiction," he said.

-Jason A. Givens

Click the thumbnail photos below for larger versions.

"I'm all shot to hell."

"I just enjoy cooking."