Photo by: Ryan Boulding
Yakov Neyman’s orange, Roland Martina Marnia hat covers his white hair in a vibrant distraction. He is wearing a red shirt with blue and yellow stripes. His brown corduroy pants top white, cushy sneakers.
Neyman is a fixture at the Asbury Avenue crosswalk. He sells good-quality hot dogs from his stand and although he has an umbrella, his skin is a deep tan from all those hours in the sun.
Neyman has been selling hot dogs with a variety of toppings for three years.
Born and raised in Russia, Neyman holds a graduate degree in mechanical engineering and is a manufacturer of plastic materials.
“I go to school almost 13 years,” said Neyman about his days at St. Petersburg University. A college education was free as long as students got good grades. After graduating, Neyman worked nearly 30 years in a company with some 20,000 employees.
“We improve some plastic to give the plastic better quality,” said Neyman. He also helped to update equipment, making it more efficient.
Yet, Neyman wasn’t happy in Russia.
“I came [to America] in 1992,” said Neyman, “for a better future for kids. It is most important because future of family belong to me and I need to think about future.”
He started working at Medtronic here in Denver, moving up the ranks as he learned English. Neyman helped to improve existing technologies until he was laid off.
“I was old, 60, 62,” said Neyman. “So I like to work. I cannot not work.”
That is when he started with the hot dog cart.
“It is not easy work, this job,” said Neyman. “I work 13 hours per day.” Neyman also has to worry about the weather, and plan his attire accordingly.
Some days he is flooded with customers, staff, students and locals all lining up to get a taste of his top-of-the-line product. Other days are not so good. Just recently his business suffered during May Days events that offered free food a few hundred feet from his cart.
His popularity also drops in bad weather. “When the weather bad, people different,” said Neyman.
Not all of the money Neyman makes is profit either. He has many fees to pay. “I need to get insurance, insurance for hot dogs, too,” said Neyman. According to Neyman, he spends roughly $500 on insurance, $350 a year for a license for his location on the sidewalk and $300 a month in commissary, and he is left with the rest.
Despite all of this, Neyman shows up at 10 a.m., after taking his grandchildren to school, and works until 5 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, when campus activity isn’t as profitable, Neyman heads down to his location in Cherry Creek.
Nonetheless, Neyman still remains positive.
“This country is the best country,” said Neyman. “In Russia, my friends they know I work at hot dog stand. They say, ‘Hey, Yakov, shame on you.’”
This doesn’t stop him, though. “I am proud for hot dogs,” said Neyman.
Also a bit of a philosopher, Neyman believes it is important to be proud, smile and be happy. Some students even come to him for advice.
“I’m old. They come to me like father,” said Neyman, speaking in his native tongue to those who know it.
But no matter what the weather, Neyman can be found under his worn umbrella, ready to serve customers with a generous, “Yes, please, what would you like?” and a beaming smile that can brighten up the day. Don’t ask about his special seasonings though. He keeps this personal recipe a secret.