LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A popular Little Rock food vendor is packing up his cart and heading back to his family.
Michael Juiliano, known as "Hot Dog Mike" to his customers, announced Tuesday that he is returning to his native New Jersey at the end of January to take over his father's antique business.
"This has been an extremely tough decision but it's finally clear to me," Mike said in his blog post on New Year's Day. "My original home is calling me."
Hot Dog Mike has been a fixture in the Little Rock community since July 2009. After working to help open a corporate hotel, he decided to go into business for himself - a decision to which he credits his family's blue-collar roots.
"I never started out thinking this was gonna be huge," Mike told THV 11 News in a phone interview. "I just started it because I thought it was gonna be fun."
Since then, he's involved himself in a number of charitable causes, including Pray for Elijah (for whom he raised several thousand dollars), mobile homeless outreach ministry The Van, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and local chapters of the Heart Foundation and the Leukemia Foundation.
"I thought that maybe I could influence people to give as well," said Mike. "I never did it to gain notoriety; I just wanted to make myself feel better."
He added, "My whole career has been based on giving people what they want."
Although he's looking forward to the future, Hot Dog Mike said he's going to miss Little Rock.
"I've made some great wonderful friends here," he said. "This town has been so welcoming and so warm in just allowing me to be here. People have just sort of opened their doors to me and I'll always remember that."