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Students and toilet-scrubbing odd jobs

BY MICHELLE BORYCA | JUNE 15, 2009 7:26 AM

Dog days

Two guys and a Vienna hot-dog cart sit on the intersection of Clinton and Burlington Streets.
Ryan Foust, a 2009 UI marketing graduate, and UI senior Peter McLean decided Iowa City was in desperate need of a place to get “a good Chicago hot dog.”

So about two weeks ago, they opened that place.

Foust said the two entrepreneurs are trying to mimic the famous Portillo’s hot dogs craved by the large portion of Illinois natives who attend the UI. They use all gourmet Vienna ingredients — with the exception of fresh tomatoes and onions, which they purchase from a local market.

The hardest part: finding the right cart and location, said Foust. The number of cart stands on the Pedestrian Mall is limited but Foust said he believes the intersection he sits at is the next best location based on the car and foot traffic.

Despite the exhausting workday and the initial investment — which Foust estimated to be around $5,000 for the cart and permits — work has been a success.

Foust and McLean set up their cart every weekday, weather permitting, around 10:30 a.m. They have found that the demand for a hot dog slows down after 8 p.m.

Turning dogs may seem easy enough, but Foust says in the hot summer heat, cooking hot dogs for nine hours is draining. During their first two weeks in business, the men have sold 60 to 80 hot dogs each day. And for the reasonable price of $3 for a loaded dog, Foust expects it will not be long before they start turning a profit and can expand their business.

“It was more feasible to open [a cart]” than a restaurant, said Foust. However, he hasn’t given up hopes for the future of more cart locations, moving to the Pedestrian Mall, and eventually opening his own restaurant in Iowa City.

Merry maid

It’s a good day when UI pharmacy student Abby Goerdt makes her own bed in the morning.

She doesn’t necessarily enjoy tidying up her own home or apartment. But this summer, she is making a little extra cash by making other people’s beds.

In addition to working in the pathology lab in the Medical Research Building, she cleans an Iowa City resident’s home. Scrubbing toilets is not her favorite thing to do first thing in the morning, but it’s hard to beat $10 an hour, three hours a day, three days a week.

“It’s good weekend spending money.” said Goerdt.

She admits her mother finds her cleaning job comical and said it seems like the “end of the world” when she is asked by her mom to vacuum once a week.

However, she says it’s a different story when she is getting paid.

Life as a lab rat

For the next few weeks, UI graduate Dan Vonk will expose himself to researchers studying the relationship between sleep and memory of newly learned words.

All for the money.

To pay off his credit-card bill, he is making money by participating in various research projects that he receives UI e-mails about.

While living in Iowa City for the summer, he is saving up his money until August, when he will move to Chicago to begin culinary school at the Art Institute.

Research studies are “way better than other jobs,” the 22-year-old said, “because they are way easier.” Vonk said the study he is currently participating in requires him to make five visits over the course of two weeks. The visits can last up to 90 minutes while he answers a series of questions about words.

The Word Learning and Consolidation study Vonk is participating in is funded by the National Institutes of Health. He will be compensated $100 for his time, and he said he would have to work more than double the time at his other job, Mailboxes of Iowa City, in order to make the same amount of money.


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