You may know Michael Untermeyer as the 59-year-old lawyer who ran for Philly’s district attorney seat — and lost — in 2009. But soon, you just might know him by his new title: Hot Dog Honcho of Philadelphia. Instead of dispensing justice, Untermeyer’s going to be dispensing wieners at his South Street shop, Wunder Dog, which he hopes to open in November.
“It seemed more fun than running for political office,” explains the still-practicing lawyer, who worked with Famous Fourth Street chef Russ Cowan to create a diverse dog offering. “It’s a business that brings some sort of joy to all the customers.”
Untermeyer’s not alone in his frankfurter wishes and sauerkraut dreams: Cheap eats are lately the second career du jour for VIPs craving the seemingly simple pleasure of hawking snacks to the masses. Last spring, former Flyers captain Keith Primeau bought Broad and Lombard’s Bain’s Deli outpost, desiring a place he could be “hands-on” — and next month, Keith Morgan (ex-CEO of AAMCO Transmissions) and his cousin, Brian Zaslow (formerly VP of Aramark), will sell their first gooey glazed at the much-anticipated opening of their Krispy Kreme franchise in Fox Chase. It’s all about giving people “an affordable treat” in tough times, Zaslow says.
A down economy does push people — even successful people — into new industries, says Lawrence Gelburd, an entrepreneurial management lecturer at Wharton. And restaurants are prime targets because of the increased media focus on food, he says: “It’s put into the public consciousness that this is a real business.”
Indeed, to many of Untermeyer’s peers, he’s living the dream, even if, as he says, “Some think it’s an easy way to lose money quickly.” But he says he remains excited to stretch his business muscles in a new arena — even as he knows his second vocation is no place for weenies.