Ellen Gordon sells hot dogs at Depot Square six days a week, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., unless, of course, her grandkids are doing something she can’t miss.

Ellen Gordon sells hot dogs at Depot Square six days a week, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., unless, of course, her grandkids are doing something she can’t miss.

When her long hours as a cook at Clinton Hospital kept her from enjoying her golden years, she decided to strike out into the world of the independent business owner.

“I wasn’t ready to retire, but I knew that I didn’t want to be working until 7 p.m. every night,” Gordon said. “I loved my job at the hospital, but I was missing out on a lot of the things my grandkids were doing. I just decided to do something for myself so that I could spend more time with them.”

One day while she was sitting around with her family someone mentioned buying a hot dog truck and the idea stuck. She purchased a van from a woman down in Swansea, christened her business Grammy on the Go and in May started selling dogs at Depot Square.

Take the good with the bad

So far, Gordon said, business has been sporadic; on a good day can serve between 25 to 30 people. But like any mobile hot dog business, she said, her day can be severely hampered by inclement weather.

“Right now, it’s either people show up or they don’t,” Gordon said last Monday, a pot of dogs steaming behind her. “People say that you have to build it up and get your name out there, and that is what we are trying to do now.”

To help offset the slower days, Gordon has been parking her truck on High Street on Thursday and Friday nights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., to try and cash in on the bar crowd.

She parks on the north end of High Street, near Jack’s and Breakaway Billiards, but much like business during the week, it’s hit or miss. Thursdays have been surprisingly slow, but she has had several lucrative Friday nights and expects it will turn around now that most people are returning from their summer vacations.

Gordon has also been peddling her wares at both the block dances held at the Clinton Middle School and at Vale Street during the Little League season.

“The kids just dollared me to death — it was fantastic,” Gordon said of her time spent at Vale Street. “The league loved seeing somebody down there and I loved being there. The season ended, so now I’m up at the block dances, which are a blast.”

Gordon offers a single dog for $1.25 with all the fixings, and has a “Grammy Special,” which is two dogs, chips and a soda for $3.50. On Wednesdays, she serves a meatball sub, and last week she had pastrami grinders. When she first opened, she offered sauerkraut as a condiment, but it wasn’t selling and with a razor-thin profit margin, she gave it up. It didn’t break her heart. She can’t stand the smell of it.

She also has a frequent buyer program, where if you buy five dogs, the sixth is free. It’s something that Gordon said is starting to catch on, and she’s already given out a couple of free hot dogs to her regular customers.

Grammy attitude

Gordon said the most important thing to her was making sure her prices were reasonable. She’s been known, on occasion, like any grandmother would, to give out a hot dog or soda below cost to one of the kids at the block dance or Little League games.

“I bring the grammy attitude to this, you have to,” Gordon said with a shrug. “There are kids that will come up to you with a $20 bill in their pocket, and there are the other kids that don’t have anything. Those are the kids that come up and ask, ‘What can I get for $1?’ I always wind up giving them what they want. You eventually make it up down the road.”

It has only been a few months since she started parking her van at the depot, but Gordon has already developed a small hardcore following. In fact, she said, a number of her friends stop down for lunch and she catches up with all the local gossip.

“It’s like a social event for me,” Gordon said. “If I’m making money on the side, that’s just an added benefit.”

And while she is still struggling to make ends meet, Gordon has it on the authority of two of the premier names in the local world of the mobile edibles business — Mike Murphy from Murph’s Dogs in Lancaster and Roger, who runs Bob’s in West Boylston — that persistence is the key to success.

Gordon plans on staying open for business at least until December, and hopes to take January, February and March off before opening up again in the spring, just in time for the start of Little League, but that’s a decision she’ll have to make when the time comes.

“I’m just looking to get by, and that’s where we are struggling right now, but I’ve never regretted the decision,” Gordon said. “If I could eventually do half the business Murph and Bob do, I’d be happy, but right now I’d be happy to pay my mortgage. I’m not looking to get rich right now. Next year I’ll be looking to get rich.”

Patrick Brodrick of the Times & Courier (Clinton, Mass.) can be reached at 978-365-8044 or pbrodric@cnc.com.