June 13, 2013

Mark Gatti relishes 30 years of (hot) dog days in Portland

A familiar Old Port figure, Gatti is a master of serving hot dogs from his landmark red wooden cart.


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Mark Gatti of Mark's Hot Dogs, right, serves a frank to Bob Fitzgerald of Westbrook on Monday. For three decades, Gatti has served hot dogs plain and fancy - even during snowy winter weather – in Portland's Old Port.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Mark Gatti of Mark's Hot Dogs serves an Old Porker in the Old Port on Monday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


Over 30 years of operating his Mark’s Hot Dogs stand in the Old Port, owner Mark Gatti has a few estimates:

• 840,001 hot dogs sold

• 9,360 pounds ketchup used

• 7,500 pounds mustard

• 6,300 pounds relish

• 14,040 pounds sauerkraut

• Water used in the hot dog steamer: 54,600 gallons

• First day of work: June 13, 1983

• Average order: 1-2 hot dogs per person

• Notable celebrities served: Dave Cowens of the Boston Celtics; Tony Montanaro, mime, director and teacher; members of the band KISS; Ted Nugent, rock musician

• Coldest winter: “All of them! They’ve all been cold.”

• Most popular toppings: mustard, relish, sauerkraut, bacon

Least popular menu item: Lobster rolls, which Gatti sold for about a month in 1984 or 1985

With his friendly demeanor and smile, Gatti’s personality is a big part of why people keep coming back, customers said. He greets people with a “Hi, brother,” or “Hi, friend,” and chats with passersby about the Boston Bruins, the Boston Red Sox or the weather.

Gene Fetteroll stopped by Gatti’s stand on his way to a medical appointment to get a hot dog with mustard on the bottom for his wife, who waited in the car.

“I think he’s stayed here 30 years by being honest, personable and dependable,” said Fetteroll, who has been coming to Gatti’s stand since he moved to South Portland in 1998. “And he smiles a lot, you know?”

Fetteroll gets his wife a hot dog about once or twice a week, but eschews them himself for health reasons, he said. Still, he’s always glad to see Gatti at his usual spot.

“You know, he’s dedicated and he’s not giving up,” Fetteroll said. “What he does is not rocket science, but the way he does it gives it that rocket science dimension.”

Gatti said that talking with customers like Fetteroll ranks high on his list of favorite things about the job. He also likes being his own boss, but isn’t too fond of the frigid temperatures in winter.

“I have a love for working outside, and I know I’m from Maine, but I don’t like the cold weather,” he said. “I was out here wearing eight or nine layers in the winter.”

The stand does offer a source of warmth when needed: Gatti said he’ll often leave one of the wooden panels open on the serving window to let the hot air from the steamer warm him up. Sometimes he’ll dump some hot water in his coolers to keep the drinks from freezing.

“But if the sodas start to freeze, it’s probably time to go home,” he said.

Over the years, Gatti has had his share of strange experiences, including the parade of about two dozen topless women, a few topless men and onlookers that gathered in Tommy’s Park on April 3, 2010.

“There was a bunch of people,” Gatti said. “And I was serving ladies that were topless - about five or six - so that was pretty unique. I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.”

Gatti said he probably won’t do any actual celebrating of his anniversary until July, because of other family events going on in June. He said he plans to be at his usual Old Port spot with his red cart for the next several years. And even after 30 years of selling them, Gatti still isn’t sick of his main fare.

“I love hot dogs,” he said. “I’ll never get tired of them. Maybe that makes me unique.”

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Additional Photos

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Mark Gatti is ready to serve customers at his Mark's Hot Dogs stand Monday. He and his father built the red food cart from which Gatti has sold more than 840,000 hot dogs.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


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