Word of Mouth

Karma Chameleon hot dog stand opened by a former computer progammer

It's certainly not the traditional career path: Tracee Campbell traded computers and office politics for hot dogs, sausage and sunshine. A computer programmer and teacher for ten years in Orlando, Florida, Campbell now owns the Karma Chameleon hot dog stand at the corner of 10th Avenue and Broadway.

Most recently, Campbell had worked as a computer programmer for an Orlando school board, but she decided she was tired of having a boss. "I just didn't want to support bureaucracy and politics anymore," she says. "They don't really take the money they get from the tax dollars and disburse it the way they should. They keep a lot of it at the district level. They just care about numbers and they don't care about the kids. I was a teacher, so I know what it's like at the schools -- and it's very unfair to the teachers and the kids."

Campbell was never a professional chef, but she loves to cook. So when she decided to leave Orlando. she headed west with the thought of starting her own food cart. Oakland was her first stop, but the food-cart laws were too restrictive. She contacted several other cities, including Portland and Austin, before deciding on Denver because of the city's relaxed food-cart laws.

Campbell has been operating the stand for about three months. She was originally situated at 17th and Tremont streets, but found she was competing with too many other street carts and restaurants. She's been operating on Broadway for about a week, selling all-beef hot dogs, brats and hot Italian sausage from Gold Star Sausage Company, a local firm located at 2800 Walnut Street.

Karma Chameleon is also very vegan-friendly for a hot dog stand. "One thing that separates me right now from other vendors is that I have vegan hot dogs, and I have vegan chili and cheese, too," says Campbell.

While Campbell has left some of the trappings of office work behind, street vending is not without its paperwork and regulations. Street vendors have to acquire a business license as well as a city and state tax license. They also have to find an empty location, obtain a location permit and pay a yearly fee for the location. And food sold to the public can't be stored at home, because the health department has no idea what the sanitary standards are there, so Campbell rents space in a commercial kitchen.

One way to avoid the location fee is to set up outside a bar or club with its permission. Campbell has done this several times outside of Charlie's on Colfax. "The clientele is always really friendly, they always tip and they're very interesting characters," she says.

Most days Campbell is on Broadway from about 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., selling dogs, drawing and watching people to pass the time. "Sometimes I get weird guys hitting on me," she notes. "Other than that, nothing too crazy."

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Kyle Garratt
Contact: Kyle Garratt