HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A Hartford man says owning a hot dog cart changed his life.
When Brian Perry, 52, thinks about where he is and where he came from, he gets overwhelmed.
“I’m sorry I’m crying. Emotional,” said Perry. “I was involved in street gangs. Drugs. In and out of prison most of my life…I get emotional. I decided I had to care about myself, start caring about myself. For so long I didn’t care about myself or my community and the result of that was being away from those that I love.”
His community is Hartford and the people he loves are his family.
WATCH: Brian Perry’s full story
Perry said, “He was telling me how me and my cousin had concession stands in Quincy, Massachusetts on the beachfront and he was like ‘I’m telling you, get a hot dog stand, it will change your life.’ And it has.”
He spent the majority of his life in and out of prison.
“I have a very long criminal history. I ran the streets of Hartford most of all my life.”
In 2016, he tells us he got picked up on a weapons charge. Two years later, he got out and thought about his three children.
Perry said, “I looked at myself in the mirror and I said ‘I can’t go back to what I always did.’”
Perry grew up in the kitchen with his grandmother.
“Cooking that was always one of my loves. One of my passions.”
So, he landed a job at a Bloomfield restaurant, when the pandemic hit, the restaurant closed, and he was out of work.
Perry said, “I was getting more in unemployment payments than I was a regular paycheck. I just saved my money, purchased a hot dog cart.”
In July 2020, he started “No Pork on Dis Fork” and you can find him every day on Park Street. All beef hot dogs are his staple.
He credits self-love for his success.
“It’s going wonderful. It’s going wonderful. I have no complaints.”
In fact, it’s been going so well, he’s even been able to hire his first employee from his old neighborhood.
He’s now celebrating one year in business and giving out free hot dogs.
On Thursday, July 22, at the Northwest parking lot area of Pope Park, Perry offered unlimited free hot dog meals, fun activities for kids, vendors, a live DJ, and a COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
Neighbors in Harford lined up for the free hot dogs at the “No Pork on Dis Fork” cart.
Perry told News 8 of all the coverage he’s getting lately, “The last time that I was a public figure it was me being arrested and it was showing that I had 68 prior convictions on my record and today’s a different day. I changed my life around, came home from prison, started my own business, and I even hired my first employee over there. So I’m giving back to my community that I took so much from.”
Antoinette Smith, Perry’s friend, added, “He’s been through a lot and this is always something he wanted to do and to see him make his dream a reality. It’s great.”