LCC alumnus finds every dog has its day
Editor in Chief
Mark McGee’s business, Mark’s Gourmet Dogs, won a spot in the Lansing Mall food court after winning The Food Network’s “Food Court Wars” last year.
The seeds of McGee’s humble hot dog stand business were sown while he attended LCC.
The 33-year-old McGee, who hails from Eaton Rapids, attended LCC from 2004 to 2007. He majored in business.
“I took an intro to business class and during those classes I was preparing on how to open up a hot dog stand,” McGee said.
The LCC alumnus spoke about people who were influential during his time at LCC. One of them was Professor Greg Aiken, who passed away a couple of years ago.
“I had a couple of classes with him,” McGee said. “About two and a half hours every day of that class was focused on me and opening the hot dog cart. He loved hot dogs and he just thought it was the coolest thing.”
LCC business professor Yvette Swint spoke about McGee’s personality.
“He was very humble and dogmatic in his plan,” Swint said. “He knew what he wanted.”
McGee worked at Verizon Wireless during his LCC tenure. After five years of working for the cell phone company, he pursued a different path.
“I needed to be my own boss and do my own thing,” McGee said.
Mark said that his wife, Krystal, pushed him into the hot dog business idea.
“My wife and I were at a big community yard sale and said if we had a grill and could sell hot dogs I bet we could make a lot of money,” McGee said. “I did two years of research before I actually opened it.”
The McGees invested their life savings in 2009 to set up Mark’s Gourmet Dog stand on the streets of Eaton Rapids.
Business was anything but booming for the McGees at first. This changed in 2014, when Mark and his wife learned that The Food Network’s “Food Court Wars” was coming to the Lansing Mall.
McGee said he knew this was an opportunity for his business that he didn’t want to pass by. He emailed the producers of the show immediately.
“The producers came to our house and said, ‘It’s going to be a lot of hurry up and wait,’” McGee said. “It was tape something for 10 minutes and then wait two hours.”
McGee’s Mark’s Gourmet Dogs stand went up against Grand Grillin’, an eatery that serves gourmet chicken wraps, salads and soups.
After the dust settled and the challenges were complete, the McGees won “Food Court Wars” and a spot in the Lansing Mall Food Court, rent free, for a year.
“All the things that have changed in this year (are) awesome,” McGee said. “Every summer we did really well, but I have never done well enough to have a full-time job. To win the show is a full-time job now.”
Just a year after winning “Food Court Wars,” McGee said he is already thinking about expanding his brand. He is working on opening a sister store in Eaton Rapids.
“I would like to eventually serve burgers and wings and have french fries,” McGee said. “We also make our own jalapeno sauce and BBQ sauce; and we would like to get that bottled and sold.”
McGee has catered LCC’s homecoming event. He has also catered events for LCC teachers and faculty.
“I needed LCC to figure out the course of action to do what I wanted to do,” McGee said. “When I was done with LCC I had a business plan and it worked.”